A New York man who allegedly hurled racial slurs at a police officer has been charged with a gun crime, announced Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah.
Shermaine Laster, 46, was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport on June 25, charged via criminal complaint with possession of a firearm by a felon. A federal grand jury in Dallas indicted him on the same charge on Thursday.
According to the complaint, travel records indicate that Mr. Laster, a convicted felon, flew from New York to Dallas to visit a local gun range, where he allegedly fired a 7.62×39 caliber rifle.
Prior to shooting the weapon, he allegedly signed a “Firearms Eligibility Experience & Range Safety Waiver,” which reminded signatories that “it is unlawful for a felon or illegal alien to possess or rent firearms or ammunition.” When the form asked if he’d ever been convicted of a felony, Mr. Laster indicated he had not.
In a video recorded at the gun range and later posted to Instagram, the defendant allegedly fired several rounds at paper targets, noting, “I’m going to be demonstrating how to take out your opponent.” A review of the Instagram feed revealed numerous photographs of handguns, with captions like “I’m ready for WAR,” “No games… fight in the dark,” and “Black Power.”
At a detention hearing in the Eastern District of New York, prosecutors introduced into evidence multiple images of Mr. Laster brandishing firearms as well as a now-viral video of Mr. Laster allegedly hurling racial slurs at an Asian-American NYPD officer in Washington Square Park.
Like all defendants, Mr. Laster is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. If convicted, he faces up to ten years in federal prison.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s North Texas Joint Terrorism Taskforce and the New York Police Department conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie Smith of the Northern District of Texas is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Francisco Navarro and Chand Edwards-Balfour of the Eastern District of New York.
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