Skip to main content
Press Release

Greenville Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison in Firearms Case

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of North Carolina

RALEIGH - United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. announced that today, JUSTIN O’NEAL BARNES, 30, of Greenville was sentenced in United States District Court.  The charges stem from the recovery of a firearm in a liquor store in Greenville on October 11, 2017.

U.S. District Judge James C. Dever, III sentenced BARNES to 120 months in prison following his December 18, 2018 conviction by a jury for being a felon in possession of a firearm.  On October 11, 2017, Greenville Police Department Officers began searching for BARNES based upon his potential involvement in another incident.  A Greenville detective observed BARNES’ vehicle and followed it to the ABC store located at 2305 South Memorial Drive in Greenville, where he observed BARNES enter the store.  The detective called for assistance and other officers responded to the scene.  In the store, the clerks refused to sell any alcohol to BARNES because he appeared to be under the influence of alcohol.  One of the clerks saw the officers outside and mentioned that to BARNESBARNES then quickly walked to the side of the counter and placed an object in an open box.  He then left the store and was detained.  The clerks then observed a handgun in the box.  Officers recovered a loaded Ruger .45 caliber pistol from the box.

BARNES has prior convictions for possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine, common law robbery, and felon in possession of a firearm.

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 make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.   Since 2017 the United States Department of Justice has reinvigorated the PSN program and has targeted violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

That effort has been implemented through the Take Back North Carolina Initiative of The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.  This initiative emphasizes the regional assignment of federal prosecutors to work with law enforcement and District Attorney’s Offices on a sustained basis in those communities to reduce the violent crime rate, drug trafficking, and crimes against law enforcement.

Investigation of this case was conducted by the Greenville Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Pitt County Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.  Assistant United States Attorney John Bennett is prosecuting the case.

Updated April 1, 2019

Project Safe Neighborhoods