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Breaking News: Chief Sanchez Suspends Issuing ‘Firearm Waiver Letters’ to Officers in Wake of AFT Raid on Pasadena PD Officer’s Home

Photo and Story by Terry Miller

In the wake of the ongoing story on a February 16, 2017 ATF raid of Pasadena police lieutenant’s home in Sierra Madre, Pasadena Chief of Police Phillip Sanchez made a public statement via William Boyer, the Public Information Officer for the City of Pasadena, regarding the so-called “waiver letters” that he signs for officers to buy weapons not available to the general public.

These ‘waiver letters’ have garnered a huge amount of local media interest as well as the ongoing investigation into why ATF raided the Pasadena police officer’s home in the first place.

Alcohol, tobacco and firearms agents served a search warrant of Pasadena police officer Vasken Gourdikian’s home in Sierra Madre, February 16 and confiscated numerous weapons in an ongoing investigation. The weapons confiscated included high power rifles as well as handguns.

In May, The United States Dept. of Justice listed details about the weapons the ATF seized from a high ranking Pasadena police officer’s home in February. Many more questions came about than answers.

Why the Pasadena police officer’s home was raided remains sealed and is under investigation. The ATF and FBI will not comment on any ongoing investigation.

The Eric D. Harden, Special Agent in Charge for the AFT Los Angeles Field Division issued a letter dated March 31, 2017 advising law enforcement that officers are required by law to obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL) before engaging in the selling/buying of firearms.

Harden went on to say that “ATF discovered some law enforcement officers (who do not have an FFL) are purchasing ‘off roster’ firearms. California law restricts FFLs sales of theses firearms to law enforcement only and reselling those firearms to non-law enforcement entities for a profit.” This is a violation of federal law.

Last week, reporter Andre Coleman from Pasadena Weekly published an extensively researched article on the gun waiver letters citing Calguns website where Gourdikian allegedly bought and sold weapons

Read Coleman’s piece here.

Pasadena Independent as well as other news agencies have officially requested public records from the regarding the issuance of these waiver letters in connection with Gourdikian. We expect to have copies on Monday.

Pasadena Police Dept. says the (ATF) investigation is not connected to Gourdikian’s work at PPD. However, there is an internal ongoing investigation in the local dept. The former Pasadena Police Dept. spokesperson and adjutant to Chief Sanchez remains on indefinite leave.

On Thursday, Sanchez announced he is temporarily suspending his Police Department’s issuance of waiver or authorization letters to officers for their use in firearm purchases.

“I am suspending the practice of issuing these letters until I have a chance to more thoroughly review our process,” Chief Sanchez said. “The Pasadena Police Department is among the finest law enforcement agencies in the country precisely because we continually assess our practices and make operational improvements to better serve our community.”

Up until now, Pasadena police officers—similar to other sworn law enforcement officials throughout California—have been able to request such letters from their employer as allowed by California law. The letters can be used by officers to seek a waiver of the 10-day waiting period for personal firearm purchases or other authorization to purchase rifles not available to the public.

More than 40 law enforcement agencies throughout the Southern California area recently contacted by the Department indicated those departments also issue similar waiver letters. Of the same agencies surveyed, 15 also issue authorization letters for rifle purchases, Sanchez said.

Out of an abundance of caution, however, Sanchez said he has ordered the Department to proactively re-evaluate its program on issuing these letters.

The Chief’s action today does not limit officers’ access to firearms or any related equipment to protect and serve the community. The department continues to issue all necessary on-duty equipment to its officers although officers still have the option of using personal firearms approved by the Department.

Officers also can purchase, or sell, handguns just like any eligible member of the public as allowed by applicable state and federal laws.

Chief Sanchez said there is no timeline for the review process by his Command Staff.

We asked PIO Boyer how many letters were issued have been issued by Chief Sanchez. While he couldn’t be specific pending the PRR, he did acknowledge that there were “a lot” issued.

We also asked William Boyer which guns were not available to the public but were to law enforcement. To which Boyer replied that the weapons essentially are “assault rifles like AR 15’s.

We will be reporting more extensively as new information comes to light. As with all ongoing investigations, ATF and Pasadena PD will not discuss details until the investigation is finished, as it is a ‘personnel matter.’

June 8, 2017

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