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Press Release

Columbia Man Sentenced to More than Three Years in Federal Prison for Possession of a Firearm by a Person Adjudicated Mental Defective

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

Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Peter M. McCoy, Jr., announced today that Javares Montel Watkins, 19, of Columbia, was sentenced to more than three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition by a person adjudicated mentally defective or committed to a mental institution.

Evidence presented in court established that on May 2, 2019, law enforcement officers became aware that Watkins was live streaming on Instagram what appeared to the possession of a firearm and narcotics.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the City of Columbia Police Department responded to conduct surveillance. When ATF observed Watkins travelling on foot, they identified themselves and directed Watkins to stop. He responded, “No, last time you put me in jail,” and fled on foot. K-9 units tracked Watkins to a nearby residence, where he barricaded himself for approximately 50 minutes.  After Watkins ended the barricade, a search of Watkins’ residence revealed a Tippmann Arms M4-22 .22LR caliber rifle, and a forensic extraction of Watkins’ phone revealed he was in possession of that rifle on numerous occasions in April 2019.

Watkins had previously been found guilty of Assault and Battery of a High an Aggravated Nature in an incident in which he shot a juvenile in the leg. He had also been involved in other violent criminal conduct and firearm-related criminal conduct, including unlawful firearm possessions, pointing and presenting a firearm while threatening a victim, and armed robberies.  Evidence presented in court also indicated that he had nine outstanding state charges and that he was a validated gang member. The Court also found that from 2017 through 2019, Watkins had been in possession of seven different firearms, two of which were stolen, and numerous rounds of ammunition. Watkins had also attempted to influence a witness.

Federal law prohibits Watkins from possessing firearms and ammunition based upon a prior order that Watkins be involuntarily committed to an institution.  In 2019, however, Watson was found competent in the state and federal systems, including in the instant case.

United States District Judge J. Michelle Childs sentenced Watkins to 41 months in federal prison, to be followed by a three-year term of court-ordered supervision.  There is no parole in the federal system.

This case was investigated by the ATF and the City of Columbia Police Department. This case was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), 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. Assistant United States Attorney Elliot B. Daniels of the Columbia office prosecuted the case.


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Derek A. Shoemake (843) 813-0982

Updated September 8, 2020

Project Safe Neighborhoods