LAPD captain’s home searched as part of investigation into alleged sale of stolen guns
Los Angeles Police Department detectives searched the home of a captain Thursday as part of an investigation into the alleged sale of more than 20 firearms stolen from the police academy gun store, according to law enforcement sources.
The commercial crimes detectives were seeking evidence linked to the guns and who might have received them. They were also looking for any communications between Capt. Jonathan Tom, who oversees the West Los Angeles station, and Archie Duenas, a former assistant manager of the gun shop who was charged with stealing the weapons last year, sources said.
A Superior Court judge signed off on the warrant to search Tom’s Long Beach home; LAPD Chief Michel Moore also approved the warrant, sources said.
The warrant is the latest step in an investigation that began a year ago, after the disappearance of dozens of firearms from the gun store of the Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club, a private organization whose members are in law enforcement. Store officials had noticed a discrepancy in inventory and notified LAPD commercial crimes detectives — who quickly narrowed their focus to Duenas, who handled the store’s daily operations.
Duenas, 34, was arrested in April on suspicion of grand theft and fired from the store. He has pleaded not guilty to grand theft of a firearm, grand theft by embezzlement, illegal possession of an assault weapon, 22 misdemeanor counts of unlawfully selling or transferring a firearm without a license and a misdemeanor of carrying a loaded and concealed firearm in a vehicle.
According to two sources familiar with the latest probe but not authorized to discuss it, the investigators found numerous guns at Tom’s home, including a loaded handgun, without a locking mechanism, that was accessible to a minor. One source said the number of weapons exceeded 50. The detectives recovered several firearms believed to be unregistered and are seeking to trace the origins of the weapons with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the sources said.
The detectives also sought to obtain access to Tom’s cellphones and other communications devices to determine if he or others bought or received any of the weapons that Duenas allegedly stole.
Tom did not return messages seeking comment. Capt. Stacy Spell, an LAPD spokesman, confirmed Tuesday that the department had served a search warrant in Long Beach but said “the facts and circumstances regarding that warrant have been sealed by a judge and cannot be disclosed at this time to preserve the integrity of the investigation.”
Spell could not immediately provide Tom’s status in the department as of Tuesday. Tom has previously served as supervisor of the Critical Incident Review Division, which investigates officers’ uses of force.
In September, the department announced that 35 firearms had been stolen; 24 were recovered, and 11 remain outstanding.
Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher, head of detectives, and Capt. Lillian Carranza, who oversees commercial crimes, were present during the search, which occurred after Tom left home Thursday morning. Later, Tom returned, entered his home alongside Pitcher and opened a safe for investigators, sources said.
While the department has cited the theft of 35 firearms, prosecutors have accused Duenas of taking at least 21 during a two-year period beginning in early 2018, then selling them, according to the district attorney’s office.
According to an internal LAPD report, a sheriff’s deputy bought 13 of the firearms, and at least three LAPD employees bought another eight. All were asked to pay cash or via Venmo for the guns, which Duenas allegedly sold at a discount. The report noted that none of the regular paperwork for firearms transactions was completed.
None of the officers or the deputy have been charged with a crime, though several officers were placed on administrative assignment. Tom was not one of those officers. One officer not identified in the report told detectives he assumed that Duenas was completing the paperwork required for the firearms purchases.
One of the missing guns from the store, a Benelli M4 semi-automatic shotgun, was found behind the shed of one of Duenas’ neighbors in Huntington Park, according to an internal LAPD report. Detectives in the report noted it as an area Duenas could freely access from his home.
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