A Columbia man who was arrested after crashing his car in a high-speed chase in Jefferson City pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to illegally possessing firearms.
James Earl Sanders Jr., 31, pleaded guilty to two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
According to information from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Sanders was arrested on two separate occasions — while riding a stolen scooter and a second time following a pursuit by police officers that ended when he crashed into a tree in Jefferson City. On both occasions, Sanders was illegally in possession of a firearm.
Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Sanders has two prior felony convictions for burglary and a prior felony conviction for attempted robbery.
Sanders was arrested July 24, 2018, when a Columbia police officer saw him riding a Yamaha Zuma 50cc scooter that had been reported stolen. When Sanders pulled into a Steak 'n Shake restaurant, the officer contacted him and learned there was a warrant for his arrest. The officer grabbed Sanders' wrist, but Sanders pulled away and ran. Sanders ran approximately 10 feet before the officer grabbed him by his shoulders and placed him on the ground. Another officer pointed his Taser at Sanders, who complied from that point and placed his hands behind his back.
Sanders had a loaded Taurus semi-automatic handgun in his front pocket at the time of his arrest. The handgun had been reported stolen. He also had what appeared to be 37 counterfeit $5 bills, all with the same serial number.
Sanders was arrested again Sept. 30, 2018, when a Jefferson City police officer attempted to stop him for speeding. Rather than stopping when the officer activated his emergency lights, however, Sanders accelerated his vehicle, reaching a speed of approximately 67 miles per hour on Chestnut Street. Sanders attempted to turn east onto Fairmount Boulevard but lost control of the car and struck a tree at the intersection of Chestnut and Fairmount streets.
Sanders threw a loaded Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol out of the window as the officer approached. Sanders and a passenger were ordered to get out of the vehicle, and Sanders was placed under arrest. He had seven arrest warrants, including a federal arrest warrant for the indictment following the July 24, 2018, arrest.
Under federal statutes, Sanders is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole on each of the two convictions. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.