The manager of a gun store at the Los Angeles Police Academy has been arrested on suspicion of stealing firearms and selling them to several officers and an L.A. County sheriff’s deputy, according to records and sources.
Archi Duenas, 33, was booked on suspicion of felony grand theft on March 20 after nearly 40 firearms disappeared from the gun store, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation.
A dozen of the weapons have not been found, while the others were relinquished to detectives by the purchasers, sources said.
The gun thefts could stretch back several years and involve more than the batch that led to Duenas’ arrest, according to two sources familiar with the probe.
According to sources, the police officers and sheriff’s deputy purchased the guns without legally required federal paperwork and probably at steep discounts, which could expose them to criminal charges.
“They knew what they were doing,” said a person familiar with the investigation. “You know when you’re buying illegally and well below market value.”
Josh Rubenstein, LAPD communications director, said he could not respond to detailed questions from The Times, citing the ongoing investigation.
Duenas could not be reached for comment.
The gun store at the Academy is patronized mostly by law enforcement officials and is run by the nonprofit Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club, whose governing board is made up of LAPD officers, including some command staff.
Duenas, a longtime employee, is well known among officers who buy firearms and ammunition for personal use or to supplement their department-issued equipment.
As the coronavirus pandemic worsened in L.A. last month, police officers lined up at the LAPRAAC store to stock up, mirroring a run on gun purchases among the public during that time.
The club derives its revenues from the gun store, a gift and uniform shop, a cafe that is open to the public and rentals of its facilities on the storied Elysian Park academy campus, as well as membership dues from active and retired LAPD officers.
The gun store has been closed since Mayor Eric Garcetti’s March 23 stay-at-home order classified it as a nonessential business. The swimming pool, weight room, basketball court and other facilities used by LAPRAAC members are also closed, and the cafe is open only for takeout orders.
LAPD Officer Rick Santos, the club’s president, said he could not provide details on the “theft problem” because of the ongoing investigation. He said the club had multiple layers of checks and balances in place at the gun store, including nightly inventory audits.
Duenas is no longer employed by LAPRAAC, and the board is looking for ways to improve its oversight of the store.
“Anytime the organization goes through something, we always look back at things we could have done better,” Santos said.
Duenas came under suspicion last month after an audit of the store’s inventory revealed missing weapons and sales that had been transacted without proper paperwork, according to three sources familiar with the investigation. LAPRAAC officials also discovered empty boxes that should have contained firearms.
Duenas may have been under financial stress, owing $700 a month in child support on a salary of about $4,000 a month, court records show. A September 2017 court judgment showed he was $2,800 behind on the payments.
About a month ago, the LAPD initiated a criminal investigation. With the assistance of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, LAPD investigators served a search warrant on Duenas’ Huntington Park home.
Duenas was taken into custody in South L.A. the evening of March 19 and booked into an LAPD jail the following morning, records show. He was released on $45,000 bail.
During the coronavirus pandemic, most LAPD officers, including detectives, have been shifted to street patrol or security duty at testing centers and homeless shelters, leaving the 10,000-member department with fewer resources to investigate crimes.
Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.