|The presently retired Chief Junta Hat Sanchez|
ATF’s investigation into Pasadena police officers began with a gun seized at a crime scene (San Gabriel Valley Tribune link): A gun purchased by a Pasadena police officer turned up at a crime scene less than three years later and launched a federal investigation into illegal weapon sales throughout Southern California, according to newly released emails.
Now-retired Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez was notified in November 2016 by a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives official in Los Angeles that one of his officers was linked to a gun recovered by another police department. Though the email is marked confidential, city officials released it this week through a public records request.
“As discussed, it appears one of your officers has been engaged in the business of dealing firearms without a license in violation of federal and California firearm laws,” wrote Eric Harden, the former agent in charge of the ATF office in Los Angeles. “Additionally, an ATF trace indicates the officer was the original purchaser of a firearm recovered by a neighboring police department with a short time to crime (time from original purchase to recovery). Hence, ATF is conducting an investigation of alleged unlicensed firearms dealing.”
The email does not disclose the name of the officer, but four months later the ATF raided the home of Lt. Vasken Gourdikian and seized dozens of guns. Gourdikian was indicted this year for selling more than 100 firearms without a license. His indictment does not mention any crimes committed with those firearms, though it does accuse him of not disclosing the fact that he was knowingly buying the weapons for other people.
Mod: When the now indicted former Lt. Vasken Gourdikian was employed by that den of iniquity known as the Pasadena Police Department, he apparently was the gentleman who fashionable people could turn to for their specialty firearms needs.
|Vasken would have hooked you up|
The exchange raises questions about whether retired Chief Phillip Sanchez knew his assistant was selling firearms before the raid. The chief would have overseen the department’s internal investigation into Lt. Vasken Gourdikian if the review had not been frozen at the request of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Gourdikian was indicted in March 2018 on charges of illegally selling more than 100 guns. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
That same month, City Manager Steve Mermell and Sanchez met and agreed that Sanchez would retire, according to a city spokeswoman.
City officials became aware of emails exchanged between Gourdikian and Deborah Sanchez nearly a year before the police chief announced his retirement, according to spokeswoman Lisa Derderian. It was never reviewed as a potential conflict for the chief.
Mod: Pasadena, a city that is today experiencing some rather tight finances, pays the now retired Chief Phillip Sanchez quite a handsome pension. Up until his rather sudden retirement recently this is what Junta Hat was pulling down. Courtesy of Transparent California (link).
Mod: At 5:40 AM this morning an informed commenter pointed out a Pasadena Weekly article that indicates Chief Sanchez was aware Lt. Gourdikian was selling "off roster" guns illegally. The article describes a Glendale "Blue Smoke" charity poker game held a few years before the Sierra Madre ATF raid.
Dubbed the “Blue Smoke Crew,” the event at the Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale on Central Avenue included a raffle for ammunition, among other items, and was run by then-Sgt. Vasken Gourdikian, an organizer of the dinner to benefit the Police Athletic League.
But while police officials were investigating that claim, another complaint was filed against Gourdikian, this one alleging he tried to sell a partygoer an off-roster handgun, or a weapon that civilians are not typically allowed to possess legally.
According to a source with knowledge of the investigation, the weapon was a 1911 Colt pistol designed for military use. It is not known if anything came of either complaint, with the 47-year-old Gourdikian not only promoted to lieutenant in 2016 but also named department spokesman that year.
“All I can say legally is that two complaints did arise from the Blue Smoke event,” said Police Chief Phillip Sanchez, who did not attend the fundraiser.
Mod: Does anyone know why exactly the City of Pasadena has not investigated Chief Sanchez?