Seventeen people across Burke and Catawba counties have been indicted on federal firearms violations, including a man who was arrested in Burke County and another with a Burke County address.
Curese Devin McIlwain, 35, of Hickory, was arrested at a home on Piney Road in Morganton on Thursday, confirmed Lia Bantavani, a spokesperson for the United States Department of Justice. McIlwain also is facing drug trafficking charges.
Donte Rassan Gore, 28, of Hickory, also was indicted. Gore also has an address in Burke County, according to law enforcement officials.
McIlwain was one of 17 people indicted across Burke and Catawba counties as part of Project Guardian, an initiative by the USDOJ to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws, according to a release from the department.
The initiative turned up more than 100 firearms, ammunition and a silencer, among other things, the release said. Some of the guns were stolen, unregistered or had been used in the commission of other violent crimes.
“Gun violence remains a pervasive problem in communities across this district and our nation,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray. “The indictments announced today are a testament to our ongoing coordination with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners and state prosecutors, and our shared commitment to reduce gun violence, remove firearms from the hands of felons, and bring to justice those who violate gun laws.”
The 15 others indicted on federal firearms violations were:
» Trevin Ali Brown, 22, of Hickory, N.C.
» Chaetez Sean Clayton, 30, of Hickory, N.C.
» Shawn Malcolm Davis, 30, of Catawba, N.C.
» Daquan Lashawn Ikard, 30, of Hickory, N.C.
» Martavious Steven Isbell, 26, of Granite Falls, N.C.
» Gevon Marquise King, 36, of Hickory, N.C.
» Line Germaine Linebarger, 33, of Hickory, N.C.
» Robbie Octavion Little, 28, of Hickory, N.C.
» Stanley Earl Reed, 29, of Hickory, N.C.
» Meguel Greylen Robinson, 25, of Hickory, N.C.
» Craig Anthony Ruff, 25, of Newton, N.C.
» Nicholas Anthony Santellan, 37, of Hickory, N.C.
» Michael Dwane Williams, 23, or Hickory, N.C.
» Wilburn Johnathan Wilson, 25, of Hickory, N.C.
» Tou Yang, 38, of Hickory, N.C.
Those indicted had their first court appearances in federal court in Charlotte on Friday, the release said. In addition to McIlwain, Davis, Gore, Robinson, Santellan, Wilson and Yang also face drug trafficking charges.
The Hickory Daily Record reported that two of the people charged were linked to recent shootings in Hickory.
Ruff was charged in August for discharging a firearm into an occupied property and possession of a firearm by a felon after shootings on July 29 on First Street SW that led to the death of Donald Simpson. Robinson was treated at Frye Regional Medical Center after being shot on the same street and day, The Record reported.
The arrests were made in collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
“ATF has a long-standing commitment with our law enforcement partners to tackle gun violence and violent crimes in our communities,” said Vince Pallozzi, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “Removing violent criminals from our neighborhoods and recovering the firearms used in their crimes is a critical step toward stronger and safer neighborhoods.”
Murray thanked District Attorney Scott Reilly for his assistance in the case.
“Our partnership and collaboration with state prosecutors is a vital factor in the success of federal crime reduction initiatives like Project Guardian,” Murray said. “I want to thank District Attorney Reilly for his office’s continued assistance and coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and I look forward to our continued joint efforts to increase safety in our communities.”
Catawba County law enforcement agencies all were quoted in the release, including Long View Police Chief T.J. Bates.
“The Long View Police department has a solid relationship with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners,” Bates said. “We are committed to disrupting criminal activity and keeping our communities safe. I am extremely proud of the law enforcement partnership and the outcome of this operation.”
Hickory Police Department Chief Thurman Whisnant echoed those thoughts.
“There is no doubt that these arrests will make our communities safer,” Whisnant said. “In Hickory, we very much appreciate the continued collaboration and cooperation among our local, state and federal law enforcement and prosecutors who are all committed to pursuing violent offenders that put our communities at risk.”
Catawba County Sheriff Don Brown also was proud of the work of law enforcement.
“Catawba County is a safer place today thanks to the incredible success of our local, state and federal partnership,” Brown said. “The collaboration and teamwork demonstrated in this operation is some of the finest I have witnessed. I’m proud to have my office associated with these law enforcement professionals.”
The ATF, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Burke County Sheriff’s Office, Long View Police Department, Catawba County Sheriff’s Office, Hickory Police Department, U.S. Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshals Service all assisted with the U.S. Attorney’s Office with the investigation.