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Press Release

Columbia Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Illegally Possessing a Firearm

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

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA — Nicholas Vanover, 25, of Columbia, was sentenced to 63 months (5 years and three months) in federal prison after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Evidence presented to the Court showed the police were called to an apartment complex on Colleton Street in Columbia concerning a large crowd of gang members causing a disturbance.  When the officers arrived, several people ran.  One gang investigator recognized Vanover from prior incidents and knew he carried guns.  The officer gave chase and saw Vanover run into the backyard of a vacant nearby home.  When Vanover saw the police officer coming towards him, he quickly went behind the home and very shortly thereafter reappeared.  While the officer was approaching Vanover, Vanover stated he “had weed and a little blunt and a little bit of weed in my pocket.”  

The officer took Vanover into custody, searched him, and found a small clear plastic bag containing marijuana in his pocket along with a hand-rolled cigar that also contained marijuana.  The officer then went to the back of the vacant home and saw the crawl space door was open under the home.  The officer looked inside the space and saw a firearm lying in the crawl space.  The gun did not have dirt or dust on it and appeared to be freshly placed there.  The area around the crawl space seemed to be freshly walked on.   The firearm was a fully loaded .40 caliber Smith and Wesson pistol that had been reported stolen.   Vanover denied possessing the firearm but admitted to possessing the marijuana.  Vanover also told the officers he was in possession of 5 counterfeit $20 bills that he had purchased online that he was going to put in the casket of another Blood member.  

After being taken to the detention center, Vanover made a call to a female friend.  During the phone call, the woman asked him why he had the firearm.  Vanover stated he had it for his protection.  This telephone call confirmed his possession of the firearm. Vanover had previously been convicted of multiple drug charges, so federal law prohibits him from possessing firearms or ammunition.  

Senior United States District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie sentenced Vanover to 63 months in prison, to be followed by a 3-year term of court-ordered supervision.  There is no parole in the federal system. 

This case was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, 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 was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the City of Columbia Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney William K. Witherspoon prosecuted the case.



Brook Andrews, U.S. Attorney’s Office,, (803) 929-3000

Updated January 6, 2023

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses