Two Aiken men were indicted by a federal grand jury on weapons charges last week, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.


Jesse James Quarles, 33, and 27-year-old Kenneth Islar each were indicted on separate charges of a felon in possession of a firearm, according to a statement from Assistant U.S. Attorney Lance Crick. Quarles and Islar each entered a not-guilty plea and remain in custody.


Quarles and Islar were both participants in the Aiken Safe Communities initiative, according to the statement. The initiative, launched in early 2013, gives repeat violent offenders a chance to get their lives back on track and make healthy choices. It also bands together local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to expedite the investigation and prosecution of individuals who reoffend after being “put on notice” at a Safe Communities meeting.


Quarles and Islar were put on notice at the most recent meeting in May.


Quarles originally was arrested April 9, 2013, after officers responded to an assault on Locke Lane, according to an incident report from the Aiken Department of Public Safety. Quarles allegedly tried to strike a 16-year-old boy with a pistol during an argument, according to reports.


The victim said Quarles followed him for a short period when he tried to leave the scene, police said. Quarles allegedly threw the gun behind a church building on Park Avenue, and investigators later recovered the pistol.


A neighbor later reported seeing Quarles following the victim on Locke Lane and carrying the pistol, police said.


Islar was arrested June 5, 2014, after officers responded to the Smith-Hazel Recreation Center, where an anonymous complainant reported a threat by a man with a gun, according to an incident report. Police on patrol nearby saw Islar, who matched the description of the suspect.


Islar touched a front pocket on his shorts several times when first confronted by police, the report stated. He then took off running, but was later captured in front of a home on Fairfield Street. Officers found a .32-caliber handgun loaded with two rounds on the sidewalk nearby.


Islar initially denied possessing the gun, but later admitted to officers that the gun was his and that he was carrying it to protect himself from another individual, police said.


The penalty for a felon in possession of a firearm is $250,000 and/or 10 years in prison, according to U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles. Should Quarles or Islar be classified based on their prior criminal history as armed career criminals, they would be subject to enhanced penalties – a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, a fine of $250,000, a five-year term of supervised release and a special assessment fee of $100.


“These two men, Quarles and Islar, chose to ignore our warning, turned away from the community’s offer of assistance, continued to engage in violent criminal activity, and will now face the consequences of their decisions,” Aiken Department of Public Safety Chief Charles Barranco said.


Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat.