Nacogdoches man pleads guilty to federal firearm charge

Delian Sternes (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Delian Sternes (Source: Angelina County Jail)

BEAUMONT, TX (KTRE) - A 28-year-old Nacogdoches man pleaded guilty to a felony federal firearm charge in U.S. District Court Tuesday.

Delian Tramain Sternes will be sentenced at a later date. He was arrested by Angelina County sheriff's deputies shortly after he was released from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Bradshaw Unit, where he had served a prison term for an unrelated crime.

Sterns was charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. An agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives sought and obtained the arrest warrant on Sept. 11. After being held briefly at the Angelina County Jail, he was transferred into federal custody.

According to the arrest affidavit, the arrest dates back to an incident that occurred on Dec. 8, 2011. A Nacogdoches Police officer spotted a man, who was later identified as Sterns, walking west in the 100 block of W. Seale Street. Sterns turned and walked away when he spotted the officer.

At that point, the officer pulled his patrol vehicle behind the Lucky Stop No. 2 convenience store located at 1324 South Street. The NDP officer tried to make verbal contact with Sterns, who was wearing a "beanie style hat on top of his head," a jacket, and blue jeans. Sterns looked at the officer and pointed inside the store, the affidavit stated.

When the officer started asking people in the vicinity of the convenience store where the man had gone, they told him Sterns had gone inside the business. A short time later, Sterns exited the store, put his hands up, and said, "I just needed to use the restroom."

According to the affidavit, the officer realized that Sterns no longer had the beanie on his head. When other NPD officers arrived on the scene and began searching the store, Sterns became "very nervous and had a sudden onset of sweating and heavy breathing." The officer reported that the behavior seemed out of place because the outside temperature was in the 40s at that point.

Then NPD officers who searched the convenience store found a black ski mask behind the hot water heater in the restroom and a .22-caliber JP Sauer revolver under the sink, the affidavit stated. The store clerk said Sterns went straight to the bathroom area and went back outside, and when the officers looked at the surveillance video, it showed Stern doing exactly that.

On Dec. 14, 2011, Nacogdoches Police officers went to Sterns' apartment in the 3400 block of East Main Street to serve an unrelated outstanding arrest warrant, and found he wasn't there. As the officers were talking to the apartment complex's manager, a vehicle pulled up, and the manager told officers Sterns was inside.

Sterns jumped out of the vehicle and fled on foot. The NPD officers caught him a short time later in a wooded area west of Cecil Jones Street. He was then taken to the Nacogdoches Police Department, and after a short discussion about the outstanding warrant, Sterns admitted to having the gun in his possession on Dec. 8, 2011.

Sterns told police that he had the firearm for protection and had only had it for about a day when he was contacted by the NPD officers at the Lucky Stop No. 2 convenience store. He also told officers that the man rumored to be having sex with his child's mother had threatened to assault him.

When the BATF agent who obtained the arrest warrant on the federal gun charge looked into Sterns' criminal background, he found the suspect had two prior felony convictions - one for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and one for tampering with a government record.

According to state jail records, Sterns also has a prior conviction for possession of a controlled substance.

The ski mask and DNA swabs from the pistol were sent to the Texas Department of Public Safety Forensic Laboratory in Houston on July 23. Six days later, the BATF agent got a search warrant to get DNA samples from Sterns, who was in the Bradshaw Unit in Henderson at that time.

The DNA results came back on Sept. 4, and they revealed that Sterns' DNA matched 13 of the 16 DNA samples taken from the ski masks. Nothing was recovered from the swabs of the revolver.

Because the gun and ammunition weren't made in the state of Texas, the felon in possession of a firearm charge was upgraded to a federal offense. The BATF agent wrote in the affidavit that he wanted Sterns picked up as soon as he was released from prison because he knew about the ongoing firearm possession investigation and posed a flight risk.

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