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Press Release

Jackson Woman Sentenced Under Project EJECT for Transfer of a Firearm to a Convicted Felon

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Mississippi

Jackson, Miss. – Tonya Danielle Ham, 36, was sentenced today before U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves to one year probation, including 30-days of home confinement, for disposal or transfer of a firearm to a convicted felon, announced U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst and FBI Special Agent in Charge Michelle A. Sutphin.

In and around 2015, the Defendant’s husband, Wilmer Ham, was arrested and incarcerated at Madison County Jail.  While in jail, Tonya Ham spoke with her husband about his charges.  At the time, Wilmer Ham was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm (a felony) and discharging a firearm within the city limits (a misdemeanor).  In one particular conversation, Tonya Ham acknowledged that Wilmer should not have had the gun.  In another conversation, Tonya spoke to her husband about his prior drug offense and possession of a weapon offense.  At the time of the call, Wilmer Ham was indeed a convicted felon and had previously been convicted in the Bronx County Criminal Court for the felony offense of Criminal Sale of Controlled Substance and for the felony offense of Criminal Possession of a Loaded Firearm.

Approximately two years after those phone calls, on September 30, 2017, Tonya Ham purchased a Taurus, model PT738 TCP, .380 caliber pistol.  Nine months after that, on June 1, 2018, Tonya Ham purchased a second firearm, a Ruger, model LCP, .380 caliber pistol.

On September 14, 2018, a Jackson Police officer responded to a call at Tony’s Food Mart located on Highway 80 in Jackson.  Upon arrival, the officer noticed the store clerk frantically waving his hands in an attempt to get the officer’s attention from inside the store.  Upon entering, the officer noticed the store was in disarray and a male, later identified as Wilmer Ham, was standing beside the fountain drinks.  The officer attempted to speak with Wilmer Ham, but his behavior led the officer to call for backup.  Before assistance could arrive, Wilmer Ham rushed the officer in an attempt to exit.  As the officer tried to stop Wilmer Ham, they struggled and a firearm fell from Ham’s pocket.  The firearm was later determined to be the Ruger .380 caliber pistol purchased by Tonya Ham. 

Later that day, at approximately 2:55 p.m., Tonya Ham and Wilmer Ham both arrived at Tony’s Food Mart.  Upon entering the store, the clerk recognized Wilmer Ham to be the same individual from the morning.  Surveillance video depicts what happens inside and outside the store.  The clerk armed himself with his weapon, locked the doors to the store, and dialed 911.  While awaiting the arrival of police, the video shows Wilmer Ham remove a firearm out of his pocket and then put it back in his pocket.  Wilmer Ham is also shown on video continuing to push the door trying to get it open.  At some point, Wilmer Ham successfully gets the door to open just enough to remove the firearm from his pocket and toss it out the door.   

Upon arrival, officers observe the front door partially open with Wilmer Ham in the doorway holding the door open with his foot.  Officers quickly detained Wilmer Ham after confirming he was the same individual from that morning.  When officers begin looking for the gun, they were informed that Tonya Ham had picked up the handgun and put it in her purse.  Officers checked Tonya Ham’s purse and confirmed that the gun was indeed inside her purse. The gun was determined to be the Taurus pistol purchased by Tonya Ham on September 30, 2017. Both Tonya Ham and her husband were taken into custody.

After being Mirandized and waiving her rights, Tonya Ham gave a statement to police.  In that statement, Tonya Ham stated she told her husband to throw the gun outside.  She also stated that she handed the Taurus to her husband while they were in the car before the incident.  The interview was audio and video recorded.

In August 2019, Wilmer Ham was charged in a federal criminal indictment with two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  He pled guilty and was sentenced by Judge Reeves on February 24, 2020, to 60-months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and fined $1500. 

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Jackson Police Department.  It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Keesha Middleton and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Paul Fortenberry.

This case is part of Project EJECT, an initiative by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi under the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) and Project Guardian. EJECT is a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to fighting and reducing violent crime through prosecution, prevention, re-entry and awareness. EJECT stands for “Empower Justice Expel Crime Together.” PSN is bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. 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.


Updated June 4, 2020

Project Guardian
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses