AUSTIN – Today a Houston man was sentenced to a total of 25 years in prison for carjacking and discharging a firearm during a federal crime of violence.
According to court documents, on January 30, 2020, Darrell Morgan Watts Jr., 24, responded to an ad for a Ford Mustang for sale on Craigslist, expressing his interest in buying the car. The owner of the Mustang met Watts at a convenience store in southwest Austin so Watts could view it. While the owner was driving the car during a test drive, Watts pulled out a loaded pistol, pointed it at the owner and threatened to kill him. Watts was a convicted felon who possessed the gun illegally. Watts forced the owner to hand over his cell phone and wallet and instructed him to pull over in an unlit residential area. Watts told the owner of the Mustang that he was going to take the car.
Watts stepped out of the vehicle, still armed with the pistol. The owner of the Mustang held a state-issued license to carry a handgun and retrieved his own pistol from the center console and then stepped out. Although Watts fired multiple shots at him, Watts only grazed him with one round. The owner of the Mustang fired multiple shots at Watts, striking him six times. The owner then fled the area on foot and asked nearby residents to call police. Watts managed to return to the vehicle and drove a short distance before abandoning it. He was apprehended on February 5, 2020 and has remained in custody since his arrest.
On October 22, 2021, Watts pleaded guilty to one count of carjacking and one count of discharging a firearm during a federal crime of violence.
“My office and our law enforcement partners remain committed to ensuring that perpetrators of violent crime in our communities are held accountable for their actions,” said United States Attorney Ashley C. Hoff. “Individuals who would consider victimizing members of the public in the Western District of Texas should take note of today’s sentence and recognize that we will ensure they meet justice.”
“Convicted felons who use firearms to commit violent crimes remains at the core of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) mission,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski. “These felons pose one of the greatest threats to public safety, and we are relentless in our pursuit to hold them accountable.”
The ATF and the Austin Police Department investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Buie prosecuted the case.
This case is being prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
Making sure that victims of federal crimes are treated with compassion, fairness and respect.