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A felon who was found in possession of a firearm following a shots fired call pled guilty today in federal court in Cedar Rapids.

Kendall J. Willis, age 25, from Chicago, Illinois, was convicted of one count of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.

Evidence at a prior hearing showed that on May 21, 2020, a call was made to the Cedar Rapids 911 line.  The caller reported shots fired at an apartment complex on North Towne Court in Cedar Rapids.  Police officers arrived at the scene and spoke with multiple witnesses.  One witness saw two individuals, one of whom was later identified as Willis, walk into an apartment after the shots were fired.  The witness saw that each individual was holding a handgun.  Officers searched the ground near where the shots were fired and found three 9mm shell casings.  Willis and Johnson then left the apartment that witnesses had seen them enter and were detained.  During a later search of that apartment, officers found marijuana, drug packaging, and two 9mm pistols, one of which had an extended magazine.  Ballistics testing determined that two of the shell casings found outside the apartment were fired by one of the pistols and that the other shell casing had been fired by the other pistol.  Willis had previously been convicted of felony armed robbery charge in Chicago in 2014.

Sentencing before United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams will be set after a presentence report is prepared.  Willis remains in custody of the United States Marshal pending sentencing.  Willis faces a possible maximum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release following any imprisonment.

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 https://www.justice.gov/ag/page/file/1217186/download.

This case was made possible by investigative leads generated from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). NIBIN is the only national network that allows for the capture and comparison of ballistic evidence to aid in solving and preventing violent crimes involving firearms. NIBIN is a proven investigative and intelligence tool that can link firearms from multiple crime scenes, allowing law enforcement to quickly disrupt shooting cycles. For more information on NIBIN, visit https://www.atf.gov/firearms/national-integrated-ballistic-information-network-nibin.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dan Chatham and investigated by the Cedar Rapids Safe Streets Task Force.  The task force is composed of representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Cedar Rapids Police Department. 

Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl

The case file number is 20‑CR‑00058‑CJW‑MAR.

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