Looting During Civil Unrest Leads to Prison Sentence

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PHILADELPHIA, PA — United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that Steven Pennycooke, 36, of Philadelphia, PA, was sentenced this week to four years and nine months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine by United States District Court Judge John M. Gallagher for being a previously convicted felon illegally in possession of a firearm in connection with looting during a period of civil unrest and mandatory curfew in the City of Philadelphia in Spring 2020.

In April 2022, the defendant was convicted after trial of a single count of possession of a firearm by a felon. In June 2020, Philadelphia Police officers responded to a 911 call reporting that two men were seen pushing a looted ATM down a street in West Philadelphia. When the officers approached the block indicated in the call, they observed two men standing in the street less than a half a block away from a looted ATM loaded onto a cart. When the officers got closer to the suspects, they observed the defendant throw something into a vehicle; and one of the officers looked through the vehicle’s window and observed a firearm in the backseat. According to court documents, after both suspects were taken into custody, the defendant’s companion told police that they were both carrying firearms because, “they purging out here,” and because the defendant had recently been shot while at a gas station. As a previously convicted felon in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2011, Pennycooke was prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm.

“The crime of being a felon in possession of a firearm is a serious offense, particularly in Philadelphia where gun violence has been and continues to be our city’s most pressing threat to public safety,” said U.S. Attorney Romero. “Repeat offenders like this defendant, who knowingly illegally carry handguns, are actively contributing to the dangerous circumstances on our streets, and our Office is doing all we can to combat and deter that criminal activity.”

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“Gun violence has claimed and affected far too many lives in this city, so every illegal weapon taken off the street is a step in the right direction,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Philadelphia police discovered an armed Steven Pennycooke out and about amidst looting and unrest. This was someone who’d done time for a violent assault with a firearm. He wasn’t permitted to have a gun, he knew it, and he tried to hide it, so back behind bars he goes — in federal prison. The FBI and PPD will continue to work together to lock up criminals who refuse to respect the law. We’ve got to make Philadelphia safer all around.”

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alexandra Lastowski and Derek Hines.

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