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Press Release

Rural Decorah Drug User Sentenced to Prison Term for Unlawfully Possessing Ammunition

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa
Threatened a Decorah Hospital That Triggered a Two-Day Lockdown

A drug user from rural Decorah, Iowa, who unlawfully possessed ammunition was sentenced in federal court on October 5, 2020.

In a plea agreement and at the sentencing hearing, William Fredric Harrison, Jr., age 60, admitted that, on November 23, 2018, he purchased an assault rifle and 200 rounds of ammunition in Onalaska, Wisconsin.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System delayed the sale.  Harrison was only able to take the ammunition home to Iowa on that day.  On November 24, 2018, Harrison made multiple telephone calls from his rural Decorah residence to the emergency room at a Decorah hospital.  In one of the calls, Harrison expressed frustration with one of the doctors at the hospital and stated, “I want to come down there and make all of you feel the terror that I am feeling.  All of you will be dead.”  The calls triggered a two-day lockdown of the hospital. 

On November 26, 2018, Harrison filled out an application in the Iowa District Court for Allamakee County seeking the return of three firearms and ammunition that law enforcement officers had seized from his residence in 2016 arising out of an incident in which Harrison was later convicted of assaulting his wife.  On November 29, 2018, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Harrison’s home and located the 200 rounds of ammunition that Harrison had purchased in Wisconsin.  Officers also found marijuana paraphernalia.

Harrison was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  Harrison was sentenced to over ten months of imprisonment.  The district court also ordered Harrison pay $10,000 for his court-appointed attorney.  He must also serve a three-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.  As a result of this federal conviction, Harrison is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN).  PSN is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.  As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

This case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.  For more information about Project Guardian, please see /media/1122011/download?inline.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tim Vavricek and investigated by the Winneshiek County Sheriff’s Office and the Decorah Police Department. 

Court file information at

The case file number is 19-CR-1048.

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Updated October 7, 2020

Project Guardian
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses