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Prestage Farms owner arrested in Washington, D.C.

Prestage charged and released after carrying gun into congressional building

Posted: July 24, 2014 4:35 p.m.
Updated: July 25, 2014 5:00 a.m.
C-I file photo/

Ron Prestage speaks before Kershaw County Council in March. Prestage was arrested in Washington, D.C., Wednesday morning for carrying a gun into a congressional office building. He was released Thursday afternoon following a court hearing and will have to appear for a preliminary hearing on August 13.

Ron Prestage, president of Prestage Farms and a Kershaw County resident, spent most of Wednesday and part of Thursday in a Washington, D.C., jail cell. According to U.S. Capitol Police (USCP), Prestage, 59, was arrested around 9:20 a.m. Wednesday after officers discovered he was carrying a loaded handgun and a magazine with ammunition in a briefcase while trying to enter the Cannon House Office Building.

William Miller, public information officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia, said in an email that Prestage appeared in court Thursday afternoon and was released pending a preliminary hearing set for 11 a.m. on Aug. 13.

The Cannon Building is a congressional office building that includes the offices of South Carolina congressional delegation members elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. One of those offices belongs to U.S. Representative Jeff Duncan, who represents South Carolina’s 3rd District in the Upstate, which includes the cities of Seneca, Easley, Anderson and Greenwood.

Duncan’s communications director, Allen Klump, confirmed Prestage had an appointment to meet with the congressman scheduled for 4:20 p.m. Wednesday.

“He was going to be sitting in on a meeting with a constituent of ours,” Klump said from Duncan’s office in Anderson.

Klump said Duncan’s office has been given no reason to believe Wednesday morning’s incident was anything but a mistake.

“We have had no indication that this was anything other than an unfortunate accident,” he said. “We have not been notified at all to suspect anything other than that.”

It appears Prestage’s arrest may have happened while he was on his way to see Congressman Tom Rice. Rice represents South Carolina’s 7th District, which stretches from Florence to Myrtle Beach. His office is also in the Cannon House.

“He had an appointment with a member of our legislative team this morning,” Rice’s press secretary, Carolina Vanvick wrote in an email. “For obvious reasons, he was unable to make the meeting.”

The Chronicle-Independent contacted offices of other members of the state’s congressional delegation whose offices are not in the Cannon House: Joe Wilson and Trey Gowdy. Wilson’s is in the Rayburn House Office Building; Gowdy’s in the Longworth House Office Building.

Amanda Duvall, Gowdy’s press secretary, confirmed in an email that Prestage had an appointment scheduled with a member of the congressman’s staff for “early this afternoon” on Wednesday. Gowdy represents the state’s 4th District, consisting of parts of Greenville and Spartanburg counties.

Spokespersons from Wilson’s office and the offices of U.S. senators Lindsay Graham and Tim Scott did not return an email inquiry by press time.

USCP Lt. Kimberly A. Schneider said Prestage was arrested after what is known as an “administrative search.”

“An administrative search requires people entering the congressional office buildings to submit to inspections of their persons and packages by the USCP,” Schneider said in an email. “Individuals are required to pass through a metal detector. Packages or items carried by the individuals go through an X-Ray machine in order to detect weapons, explosives or other prohibited firearms. This is merely part of our multi-layered security procedures.”

Schneider identified the weapon USCP officers recovered from Prestage’s bag as a 9mm Ruger.

Miller attached the charging document against Prestage to one of his emails. It states that Prestage is charged with “carrying a pistol [outside home or place of business].”

A report of the incident typed on the second page of the charging document stated that the reporting USCP officer “observed on the x-ray machine what appeared to be a handgun.” The officer conducted a visual inspection of a briefcase and “observed a black holster containing a black handgun.”

The reporting officer wrote that Prestage said he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon in South Carolina, but did not have a permit to carry in the District of Columbia.

Officers also recovered a magazine containing six rounds of 9mm ammunition and one 9mm round from the gun’s chamber.

A hand written note on that page -- presumably written by a USCP officer -- stated that “…the weapon appeared to be fully functional, designed to expel a projectile by the action of explosive and appeared to be capable of being fired by a single hand. The weapon also had a barrel length of less than 12 inches.”

Prestage being charged by the USCP does not necessarily mean that Prestage was carrying an illegal weapon from South Carolina’s point of view. According to the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975, the District of Columbia requires that all firearms be registered -- which serves as a licensing process -- by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. This is regardless of whether the gun is legally permitted, licensed or registered in another jurisdiction.

Schneider said Prestage was processed at USCP headquarters and then transported to a facility called the Central Cell Block. Officials there confirmed Prestage was being held Wednesday evening pending Thursday’s hearing.

Prestage Farms representatives both in Cassatt and at its national headquarters in Clinton, N.C., had no comment about Wednesday’s incident.

In addition to being president of Prestage Farms, Prestage is a doctor of veterinary medicine, manager of the Kershaw County Airport, president-elect of National Pork Producers Council, past chairman of the S.C. Poultry Federation, past chairman of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, and past chairman of the National Turkey Federation. In May, the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce honored Prestage and his wife, Cindy, with its President’s Award, given to individuals who have “contributed significantly” to Kershaw County.

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