For Immediate Release
Jacksonville Felon Sentenced to Ten Years in Prison After Twice Tossing Guns and Eating Drugs While Fleeing Police
Jacksonville, Florida – U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard has sentenced Vershaun Lamar Puzie (34, Jacksonville) to 10 years in federal prison for two counts of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The Court also ordered Puzie to forfeit a Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol, which he used during one of the offenses. Puzie had pleaded guilty on April 28, 2022.
According to court documents, on January 1, 2019, officers with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) encountered Puzie in the area of 31st Street and Silver Street, after Puzie jumped out of a car during a traffic stop. Puzie then fled on foot. As he fled, Puzie ingested an item. A JSO officer who was chasing Puzie tased him and took him into custody on the ground, at which point Puzie was still chewing the item he had ingested. Officers commanded Puzie to spit out the item, which contained rocks of crack cocaine mixed with other material. Upon tracing Puzie’s flight path, officers located a torn baggie with drug residue and a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber pistol, in plain view, that Puzie had tossed over a fence.
On July 16, 2020, JSO officers were dispatched to the Hometown Inn & Suites located on Mustang Road. An officer arriving on the scene observed Puzie in the parking lot; Puzie began to walk quickly into the Hometown Inn & Suites. The officer pursued Puzie on foot into the hotel lobby and then up an interior stairwell of the hotel while commanding Puzie to stop. While going up the stairs, the officer heard a thud as Puzie discarded a Smith & Wesson 9mm caliber pistol and cell phone on the stairs. Puzie ran across the hotel and down another stairwell and outside, where he was taken into custody by the officer. A second officer recovered the pistol from the stairwell. While fleeing, Puzie again ingested a quantity of cocaine base that he had intended to sell. Puzie entered a state of excited delirium as a result of ingesting the drugs and was transported to a hospital.
Puzie admitted that he had possessed both pistols to protect himself while he possessed crack cocaine with the intention of selling the drugs.
This case was investigated by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Laura Cofer Taylor.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.