Police say they found a gun in the car, but felon pleads not guilty

James Eustice
James Eustice

A felon, said to have thrown a pistol and a bag of drugs at his driver’s feet during a traffic stop, is held for prosecution in federal court.

Gulfport resident James Eustice, 39, pleaded not guilty on a firearm charge Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

Eustice was on parole on a pseudoephedrine conviction when Gulfport police arrested him and another felon on July 28.

A federal grand jury indicted Eustice Aug. 23 on a charge of felon in possession of a firearm involving the traffic stop.

The indictment has a forfeiture order for a 9mm pistol and a 12-gauge firearm manufactured as a shotgun but altered and with a pistol grip.

The indictment came after Gulfport police arrested Eustice and his driver, Steven Ray Stone, on state drug and firearm charges.

What ATF says happened

A special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wrote an affidavit, which describes what he says happened.

Stone, 51, was driving when police stopped his vehicle in the 1900 block of 19th Avenue.

As police approached the car, Stone was “shaking profusely and breathing rapidly,” and Eustice was making “furtive movements” as he leaned toward the driver’s side of the vehicle,” the agent said.

Police reported they saw a pistol and a cloth bag on the floorboard and found a firearm with a pistol grip wedged in a back seat. The bag allegedly contained 20 grams of meth and assorted prescription drugs including oxycodone. Police also reported they found cash.

Stone told police Eustice had thrown the pistol and a bag on the floorboard in front of his feet, the agent said. Stone reportedly said he didn’t know about the pistol or the drugs, but said he had grudgingly allowed Eustice to put the other firearm in the back seat.

Stone admitted he’s a felon with a pending drug charge, the affidavit said.

What Eustice said

Eustice at first said the money, drugs and weapons were not his; but he later told investigators they’d find his DNA and fingerprints on the firearms and narcotics, the agent said.

He allegedly said he had used the weapon the night before to shoot an animal and had arranged to sell the firearm to one of Stone’s relatives.

Eustice confessed he’s a drug user and said he was on probation under supervision of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, the agent said. He had been convicted on a drug charge from a 2008 arrest in Gulfport.

Eustice has been held since his arrest. He was arraigned Tuesday.

His trial is set on a court calendar that starts Oct. 3.