A South Los Angeles firearms dealer whose warehouses have long been a target of neighborhood activists has been convicted of improperly allowing a civilian to buy guns using a legal exemption meant for police, Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer announced Wednesday.
Feuer and his attorneys filed criminal charges last year against Botach Tactical owner BarKochba Botach, alleging he sold two pistols to a community college security officer who was not a sworn officer.
Under city rules, the woman should not have been able to buy more than one handgun within 30 days, city attorneys argued. Botach was also accused of violating California law by selling her ammunition magazines that can hold 17 rounds each.
After his conviction by a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury, Botach was due to be sentenced in June. Feuer said last year that the firearms dealer could face up to a year and a half in jail and $1,000 in fines if convicted of both charges.
Attorney Louis J. Shapiro, who represented Botach in the case, said in an email that neither he nor his client wished to comment at this time. Botach did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
City attorneys say that the woman who bought the guns, Amelia Suarez, transferred one of them to a family friend without going through the proper procedures.
That friend later used the pistol in a homicide. Suarez was sentenced this year to 36 months of probation and 300 hours of community service and required to take a gun safety class, according to city prosecutors.
Long before Botach was facing criminal charges, the company had been a focus of Leimert Park residents and activists who complained that its warehouses did not belong in a burgeoning business district trying to build its reputation as a center of African American arts and culture.
Botach Tactical is an online retailer of police and military equipment that has expanded its footprint in Leimert Park over time. Its website says its facilities are not open to the general public, only to law enforcement or military personnel.
Neighborhood rules ban gun shops, but city building officials say Botach started operating before those rules were imposed, and the company has survived past attempts to eject it from Leimert Park. Some residents and activists were hopeful that the convictions could prod Botach Tactical to leave the area.
"This could kill this entire system that has persisted like a canker sore on our community," said Carl Morgan, a member of the Empowerment Congress West Area Neighborhood Council.
As of December, Botach held a federal permit to import machine guns and other destructive devices. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokeswoman Meredith Davis said Wednesday that it would be premature to say whether the convictions would affect that permit.
Feuer spokesman Rob Wilcox said Feuer's office was also looking into whether the convictions would affect whether Botach Tactical could continue to operate in Leimert Park.
City Council President Herb Wesson, who represents the area where Botach Tactical is located, said that whether or not the business relocates, "I think the community will view this as a victory."
"It sends a strong message that you're not going to be able to get away with this type of thing in that part of town," Wesson said.