At a press conference held Thursday between federal and local law enforcement agencies, Russell M. Coleman, United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, aimed to make one thing clear: The feds were not going anywhere — not now, and not anytime soon. For months and perhaps even years down the road, individuals in the local area who choose to possess and traffic drugs and weapons will likely be served with federal charges in the future and, in turn, sentenced to prison without parole if convicted.
On Monday, a federal grand jury returned eight felony indictments against individuals, all from the local area. These individuals were charged with counts ranging from firearms violations to possession and distribution of drugs. As noted in a press release from the Department of Justice, these charges are part of an ongoing promise from the feds to be better partners outside of the Louisville region.
Coleman and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) L.C. Cheeks, Jr. said this promise comes as a direct response to escalating violence that has occurred in the Owensboro region.
The eight individuals indicted with federal charges are listed below:
Joseph L. Howell, 32, of Owensboro, was charged in a three-count indictment, including possession with intent to distribute meth, use of/carrying a 9 millimeter semiautomatic pistol during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Howell was previously convicted of first-degree trafficking in meth in 2015, and was also convicted of manufacturing meth and two counts of tampering with physical evidence in 2012, all felony counts.
Larry Andrew Barnett, 31, of Owensboro was charged on an indictment for being a felon in possession of a .22LR semiautomatic rifle. Barnett was previously convicted of first-degree wanton endangerment, a felony, in 2018.
Jeremy L. Morrow, 27, of Owensboro received an indictment for being a felon in possession of a firearm, a 9 millimeter semiautomatic pistol. Previously, Morrow was convicted of second-degree robbery, a felony, in 2010.
Christen Shane Stewart, 30, of Owensboro received an indictment for being a felon in possession of a firearm, a 9 millimeter semiautomatic pistol. Stewart was previously convicted of felony-level second-degree robbery in 2010.
Seth Aaron Fenwick, 28, of Owensboro received an indictment for being a felon in possession of a firearm, a .22 caliber revolver bearing an obliterated serial number. Previously, Fenwick had been convicted of two felonies–third-degree burglary and theft by unlawful taking (theft of an automobile) in 2009.
Jonathan Robert Miller, 24, of Owensboro received an indictment for being a felon in possession of a firearm, a 9 millimeter semiautomatic pistol. Miller had previously been convicted of first-degree wanton endangerment, a felony, in 2017.
Carl Dikeith Warren, 33, of Owensboro received an indictment for being a felon in possession of a firearm, a 9 millimeter semiautomatic pistol bearing an obliterated serial number. Previously, Warren had been convicted of first-degree wanton endangerment, a felony, in 2008.
Jeremy V. Denson, 27, of Owensboro received an indictment for being a felon in possession of a firearm, a 9 millimeter semiautomatic pistol. Denson had previously been convicted of trafficking in marijuana, a felony, in 2016.
If convicted at trial, the maximum sentence for possessing a firearm as a felon is 10 years, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Because each individual was indicted on federal charges, there will be no possibility for parole.
One of the indicted, Howell, must serve a mandatory five-year sentence for possessing a “significant amount of meth,” according to Coleman.
“These charges were made to send a message,” Coleman said. “We will not–federal, state and local–will not tolerate gun violence, not in this community. We use every sentencing tool in our toolkit, every investigative tool–the lack of sanctuary of federal parole and supervised release–to chop off the head of the violent snake every time it rears its head. Lately in Owensboro, [that snake] has reared its head.”
Gun-related activity in the local community has dramatically increased over the last two years. OPD Chief Arthur Ealum said there were 27 gun-related reports made in 2017. In 2018, that number increased to 224 gun-related crimes. In 2019, there have been 14 gun-related incidents so far, including four homicides.
“Owensboro, like many cities of its size, has experienced an increase in violent crime,” Ealum said. “These are offenders who’ve proven they really don’t care about the laws. I hope the seriousness of this punishment will act as a deterrent.”
Ealum said the number of guns and drugs seized by OPD had increased 21 percent since last year.
“That’s a good thing, but it shows there’s more drugs and guns out there,” Ealum said. “We still have people from other communities bringing guns and trying to create havoc in our community.”
Coleman said the results of this investigation stemmed from a partnership between the feds and OPD and DCSO in the attempt to better protect Daviess County families with multiple law enforcement agencies.
Ealum said OPD’s Street Crimes Unit apprehended these individuals after doing research, talking to residents across the community making appropriate traffic stops to build each case and uncover evidence. OPD then presented these cases to their partners with the ATF.
Coleman, who grew up in Owensboro, spoke highly of OPD and DCSO, commending them for their efforts in cleaning up the streets of Owensboro and Daviess County.
“The people doing the work aren’t the ones standing up here–it’s the men and women out there every day doing this,” Coleman said. “This announcement isn’t the feds riding up on a white horse here. That stereotype doesn’t exist here, and it won’t be tolerated. Your community is very well policed.”
DCSO Sheriff Keith Cain said the partnership between local law enforcement and federal agencies was imperative to cleaning up the streets and maintaining a safe community.
“Firearms in the hands of felons and drug traffickers will always result in harm and destruction,” Cain said.