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Hattiesburg Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison Under Project EJECT for Illegally Possessing a Sawed-Off Shotgun as a Felon
Gulfport, Miss – Paul Leon Heathcoe, 53, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden to 120 months in prison for being a felon in possession of a sawed-off shotgun, announced S. Attorney Mike Hurst and Special Agent in Charge Kurt Thielhorm with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
On July 21, 2018, a woman arrived at the emergency room of a hospital in Jackson County and informed law enforcement that Heathcoe had assaulted her and was in possession of a sawed-off shotgun. The victim required staples to her head and told law enforcement Heathcoe kept her with threats to her children and sexually assaulted her in addition to breaking a golf club over her head.
Heathcoe is a convicted felon and therefore prohibited from legally possessing a firearm. As a result, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputies obtained an arrest warrant for Heathcoe and a search warrant for his residence. Upon executing the search warrant, deputies discovered a shotgun with a barrel measuring a little over 12 inches and an overall length of approximately 19 inches. Both the stock and the barrel had been cut off. Law enforcement also found a modified holster that Heathcoe used to wear the shotgun around the house, according to the victim.
At sentencing, Judge Ozerden found U.S. Sentencing Guideline enhancements for kidnapping, sexual assault and aggravated assault. Heathcoe’s guideline range exceeded 120 months, but the statutory cap for the charge was 10 years. Heathcoe was also sentenced to 3 years of post-release supervision and a $4000 fine.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms investigated the case. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Annette Williams.
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.
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