Elizabeth City man sentenced to eight years in prison for firearm charge

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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An Elizabeth City man was sentenced Wednesday, February 21, 2024 to 96 months in prison for possession of a firearm by a felon, according to a news release form the U.S. Department of Justice, Eastern District of North Carolina. Manuel Gonzalez, 29, pleaded guilty to the charge on November 2, 2023.

“Last month, we launched a partnership with local law enforcement for a Violent Crime Action Plan in the Albemarle Region. This case is a prime example of the senseless drug-related gun violence that partnership targets,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina Michael Easley. “This defendant fired a rain of bullets in a drug dispute, including into a home where a woman was sleeping. His eight-year sentence should stand as a warning. Violent felons driving gun violence should put down their guns or face federal prison.”

“The Elizabeth City Police Department is grateful to all who had a hand in the conviction and sentencing of Mr. Gonzalez. His sentencing is a testament to the power of partnerships as a force multiplier in keeping our communities safe. We are committed to arresting those individuals who chose to use firearms to commit violent acts and will always work with our partners to ensure violent felons receive federal time,” said Elizabeth City Police Chief J. Phillip Webster.

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According to court documents and other information presented in court, on February 15, 2021, officers with the Elizabeth City Police Department responded to a call regarding a shooting at a residence in Elizabeth City. “Two victims identified the defendant as the shooter and described how Gonzalez had begun shooting a handgun toward them after a drug dispute,” stated the release. “The victims had to run and hide inside the house and behind a truck to escape his gunfire. Officers found multiple bullet holes in the side of the truck, as well as one that went through a wall of the home into a bedroom where a woman was sleeping.  One victim may have been grazed but no one was seriously injured.”

According to the release, on the afternoon of February 19, 2021, law enforcement received information that Gonzalez was staying at the Days Inn on S. Hughes Boulevard in Elizabeth City. “Officers responded to the hotel to serve an arrest warrant related to the shooting. They knocked several times, and Gonzalez eventually opened the door and surrendered without incident,” stated the release.

A search of the room was conducted pursuant to a search warrant and officers found a fully loaded Glock 22 .40 caliber handgun under the bed mattress and a box of .40 caliber ammunition and a loaded extended magazine wrapped in a red bandana in the top drawer of a dresser, as well as a small amount of cocaine. A debit card and other paperwork in the room were in Gonzalez’s name, stated the release.

“Ballistics testing of the Glock handgun confirmed that it was used to fire shells discovered at the February 15, 2021, shooting. This testing also connected the firearm to an earlier incident on January 30, 2021, in which a victim was shot multiple times,” the release continued.

Easley made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III. The Elizabeth City Police Department, Pasquotank County Sherriff’s Office, and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jake D. Pugh prosecuted.