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Press Release

U.S. Attorney’s Office Prosecuted 85 Firearm Offenders, while Seizing and Forfeiting 163 Illegal Firearms in 2023

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

Spokane, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that in 2023, the office she leads prosecuted 85 illegal firearm offenders, resulting in the seizure and forfeiture of 163 illegally owned, possessed, used, or obtained firearms. Firearms that are forfeited are removed from the possession of a convicted criminal defendant and relinquished to the government for disposal, including potentially the return of stolen firearm to rightful owners.

“The 85 firearm offenders my office prosecuted in 2023 had access to illegal firearms and many demonstrated an inclination for violence. These prosecutions are a stark reminder of the nexus of firearms and violent crimes,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “Our collaborative law enforcement partnerships at the federal, state, local and tribal level have a significant impact in removing illegal firearms off our streets, reducing violent crime and making our communities safer.”

Since the start of 2023, the 85 defendants were charged with various federal firearm offenses, which included, among other crimes, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, Assault with a Deadly Weapon on a Federal Law Enforcement Officer, Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition by a Person Convicted of Domestic Violence, First-Degree Murder, and Attempted Murder of a Federal Officer.

The majority of these firearm and violent crime cases were prosecuted under the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program. PSN is a federal, state, and local law enforcement collaboration to identify, investigate, and prosecute individuals responsible for violent crimes in our neighborhoods. The U.S. Attorney’s Office partners with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement to specifically identify the criminals responsible for violent crime in the Eastern District of Washington.

“The FBI works alongside our law enforcement partners to keep our communities and neighborhoods safe.” said Richard A. Collodi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office.  “The FBI’s goal is to build cases which disrupt and dismantle the capabilities of criminal enterprises, putting the worst offenders behind bars to keep communities safer.  The impact of firearms violations highlighted from 2023 represent a step forward in achieving that aim.  These results would not be possible with the strong partnerships within the public safety community.”

“The nexus between drug trafficking and firearms illustrates the danger of violence at the hands of members of drug trafficking organizations,” said David F. Reames, Special Agent in Charge, DEA Seattle Field Division. “DEA worked diligently with the United States Attorney’s Office and with our Federal, state, local, and tribal partners to keep our communities safe from drug-fueled violence, as these seizures prove.”

“ATF supports our 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms,” said ATF Seattle Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Blais. “But when people commit crimes with firearms, or possess illegal firearms, ATF is at the forefront of ensuring these people are investigated and referred for prosecution, making our communities safer and protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

Enforcing federal firearm prohibitions is also a crucial part of combating domestic violence. Domestic violence abusers with access to a gun are five times more likely to kill their partners. In addition to their lethality, firearms are used by abusers to inflict fear, intimidation, and coercive control. Law enforcement responding to active domestic violence scenes are at increased risk when firearms are present. Under federal law, people with domestic violence misdemeanor and felony convictions and those subject to domestic violence protective orders are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms.

In October 2022, U.S. Attorney Waldref announced her office’s Safe Homes, Safe Community Initiative to prevent domestic violence homicides and prevent abusers who have previously been convicted of domestic violence offenses from having access to firearms. Partnering with the Yakima Police Department, Yakima County Prosecutor’s Office, Spokane Police Department, and Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office, and domestic violence prevention advocates, the U.S. Attorney’s Office focuses enforcement on individuals identified as repeat domestic violence abusers in possession of firearms.

“Everyone deserves to live in a safe home free of domestic violence,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “Federal prosecutors witness the devastating impacts of domestic violence on the lives of victims and their families, who may endure long-term trauma and are at increased risk for returning to abusive relationships. Our Safe Homes, Safe Community initiative focuses on victim safety, law enforcement safety and community safety. Here in the Eastern District of Washington, my Office is committed to use all the tools at our disposal—including leveraging our partnerships with local law enforcement and local prosecutors—to ensure victims have a viable path to safety and justice.”

Major firearms-related cases filed or pending in the Eastern District of Washington in 2023 include:

21 Year-Old Moxee Gang Member Sentenced to 12 Years In Federal Prison for Possessing Firearms in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime

Alexis Sanchez-Gomez was gang member who trafficked drugs and possessed firearms. He was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison.

30 Year-Old Yakama Man Sentenced to 10 Years Imprisonment for Brandishing a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence

James Skahan-Lowe was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for Brandishing a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence. Skahan-Lowe pointed a rifle at the victim, then beat him with it.

Richland Man With Extensive Criminal History Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison After Shooting A Person and Conspiring To Distribute Fentanyl-Laced Pills in Tri-Cities

Jonathan Scott Ard was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison on fentanyl and gun charges. Ard has long criminal record which includes a significant history of crimes of violence.

Othello Woman Sentenced to 46 Months in Federal Prison for Firearm Offense

Alondra Yanez was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for being a Felon in Possession of Firearms. Yanez helped traffic 11 stolen firearms. One of the stolen firearms sold by Yanez was used during the homicide of a four-year-old child in Othello, Washington in February of 2021.

Yakima Man Sentenced to 48 Months in Federal Prison for Firearm Offense

James Duane Deckard was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison for being an Unlawful User of Controlled Substances and Person Convicted of Domestic Violence in Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition. Deckard was involved in a domestic dispute where he pointed a firearm at his intimate partner.

31 Year-Old Yakima Man Sentenced to 7 Years Imprisonment for Being a Felon in Possession of Firearms Stolen From Fish and Wildlife Building

Alexander Scott Stevens was sentenced to seven years in prison for being a Felon in Possession of Firearms. Stevens was linked to the theft of 18 firearms and a suppressor from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Othello Man Sentenced to 168 Months in Federal Prison for Firearm Offenses Related to the Homicide of a Four-Year-Old Child

Felipe Tapia-Perez was sentenced to 168 months in federal prison to being an Unlawful Alien in Possession of a Firearm and Possession of a Stolen Firearm. In February of 2021 Tapia-Perez bought a stolen firearm. A short time later he was involved in a domestic dispute with his partner. During the argument, Tapia-Perez was holding the stolen firearm. The pistol discharged, and the bullet struck his four-year-old child in the head. The child later passed away at the hospital.

Repeat Domestic Abuser Sentenced to 51 Months in Federal Prison for Firearm Offense

Frederick Terrell was sentenced to 51 months in prison for being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm.  Terrell texted his intimate partner three videos that showed him shooting a pistol. Terrell was prohibited from possessing firearms due to multiple prior felony convictions. Terrell also has at least seven prior convictions arising from domestic violence assaults.

Long-Time Sureno Gang Member Sentenced to More Than 20 Years in Federal Prison for Shooting an Undercover Law Enforcement Officer

Randy Coy James Holmes, age 25, of Spokane, Washington, was sentenced today to more than 20 years in federal prison for Assault with a Deadly Weapon on a Federal Law Enforcement Officer.

Holmes shot the undercover ATF during the purchase of a firearm.

Spokane Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Drug Trafficking and Firearms Offenses

Merced Zamora was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for Possession with Intent to Distribute 50 Grams of Actual Methamphetamine, Felon in Possession of a Firearm, as well as for Use, Carry, and Possession of a Firearm During and in Relation to a Drug Trafficking Offense.

Zamora was driving on a suspended license. Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputies recovered two firearms, ammunition, and a half pound of methamphetamine following a search of his vehicle. Zamora was found guilty by a jury of his peers after a multi-day jury trial in Spokane, Washington.

Domestic Abuser Sentenced to 4 Years in Federal Prison for Firearm Offense

Michael Ross was sentenced to 4 years in prison for being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm.

At the time he was detained, Ross had three convictions for crimes that qualify for federal felonies, including, one count Second Degree Assault (Domestic Violence), First Degree Burglary, and seven counts of Possession of a Stolen Firearm.

Felon Found with Almost a Dozen Firearms, Sentenced to 7 Years in Prison

Zachary Wade Bennett was sentenced to 84 months in federal prison for Felon in Possession of a Firearm. During a search of home, deputies found 10 guns, including three AR-15 rifles, boxes of ammo, drug paraphernalia, ledgers detailing his drug distribution operations, heroin and hallucinogenic mushrooms.

More information about Project Safe Neighborhoods can be found here.


Robert Curry 

Public Affairs Specialist 

Updated March 5, 2024

Project Safe Neighborhoods