Terrese Colston, 29, of Polk County, Florida, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for carjacking, brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and possessing a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon, by U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington on Wednesday.
According to evidence presented at sentencing and court documents, on July 11, 2018, Colston approached the driver’s side window of a car parked on East Lemon Street, pointed a loaded revolver at the victim sitting inside the vehicle, and told him to get out of the car.
The victim, in fear for his life exited the vehicle, which Colston got into and drove away.
A few hours later, a Lakeland police officer spotted the Mazda which was reported as stolen, and attempted to pull it over.
Colston crashed the car and fled on foot.
When the officer finally caught up to Colston and attempted to stop him using a Tazer, Colston turned around and shot the officer in the face.
(Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens said the officer returned fire and hit the suspect in the leg. Courtesy of 10News WTSP and YouTube. Posted on Jul 12, 2018.)
The officer survived and returned fire, striking Colston in the leg. Other officers arrived and took Colston into custody.
“My Office backs our men and women in blue,” said United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez.
“The prosecution of all violent crime, including against law enforcement officers, is a top priority for me.”
“This sentencing should send a strong message that violence against law enforcement who are working to serve and protect communities will not be tolerated,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Daryl McCrary.
“Our strong partnerships continue to reduce violent firearms crime and mitigate dangerous individuals from committing further acts of violence.”
“The members of the Lakeland Police Department are grateful to our federal law enforcement partners at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” added Lakeland Police Chief Ruben Garcia, “for the successful prosecution of this case and the incarceration of a violent felon to safeguard the citizens of our community.”
Colston’s sentence consists of 15 years’ imprisonment on the carjacking charge, 15 years’ imprisonment (consecutive) on the firearm brandishing charge, and 10 years’ imprisonment (concurrent) on the felon-in-possession charge.
This case was brought in furtherance of the President’s February 9, 2017 Executive Order on Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers (EO).
The EO established that it is the policy of the executive branch to enhance the protection and safety of federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement officers, and thereby all Americans.
This case was also brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that has been successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone, which was recognized with an ‘Excellence in Homeland Security’ Platinum Award, in the 2018 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program.
(Project Safe Neighborhoods is nationwide and is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. It was just awarded a $30 million dollar federal grant. Courtesy of WJZ and YouTube. Posted on Nov 30, 2018.)
In the Middle District of Florida, U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez coordinates PSN efforts in cooperation with various federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Lakeland Police Department.
It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher F. Murray.
Project Safe Neighborhoods Aims To ID Violent Repeat Offenders
The PSN Program has three primary components:
Proactive investigations and prosecutions
Reactive prosecutions, and
Training and outreach.
Proactive PSN investigations use federally-led task forces to investigate gangs, drug trafficking organizations, and robbery crews that have been identified as being connected to past or present acts of violence.
Prosecutors then use federal racketeering, drug, firearms, and robbery statutes to prosecute those groups.
As a part of the reactive firearms and violent crime prosecutions, certain firearm, commercial robbery, bank robbery, and carjacking cases are screened to determine whether federal prosecution is warranted.
The last component of the PSN program involves training and outreach.
In conjunction with state prosecutors, The U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) provides training to local law enforcement on a variety of issues.
The USAO is also seeking creative ways to reach out to the community in an effort to deter violent crime.
PSN partners reach out directly to ex-offenders to prevent recidivism through “call-ins,” making ex-offenders aware of services available to assist them and of the consequences if they re-offend.
For example, in an effort to deter individuals from using firearms to commit crimes, the USAO recently sponsored billboards in the Baltimore area, stating: “Gun Crime = Fed Time, No Parole – Ever.”
Since 2017, the partnerships have achieved extraordinary results.
- In 2017, a total of 334 defendants were charged in PSN cases.
- For 2018, as of November 1, the office had already charged a total of 328 PSN defendants.
Department of Justice (DOJ) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Honored in the 2018 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program
‘Excellence in Homeland Security’
Project Safe Neighborhoods Program
The Annual ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program is specifically designed to honor distinguished government and vendor solutions that deliver enhanced value, benefit and intelligence to end users in a variety of government, homeland security and public safety vertical markets.
Over 130 distinguished guests representing National, State and Local Governments, and Industry Leading Corporate Firms, gathered from across North America, Europe and the Middle East to be honored among their peers in their respective fields which included:
- The Department of Homeland Security
- The Federal Protective Service (FPS)
- Argonne National Laboratory
- The Department of Homeland Security
- The Department of Justice
- The Security Exchange Commission Office of Personnel Management
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- Viasat, Hanwha Techwin, Lenel, Konica Minolta Business Solutions, Verint, Canon U.S.A., BriefCam, Pivot3, Milestone Systems, Allied Universal, Ameristar Perimeter Security and More!