California Department of Justice seizes 3 grenade launchers in Fresno
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that the Bureau of Firearms agents at the California Department of Justice (CA DOJ) seized three grenade launchers from two people in Fresno.
The DOJ also seized several assault weapons, two ghost guns and other firearms from individuals prohibited from possessing such weapons in Riverside, Oroville, San Diego, Norwalk, and Pittsburg.
The DOJ says Roberto Peña and Joel Mendoza, from Fresno, were arrested on March 5 after they attempted to purchase three grenade launchers from a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) out of Texas.
When they were arrested, CA DOJ agents, along with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) agents, searched their house and seized two AR-15 assault weapons, one belonging to Peña’s uncle, Mendoza.
The DOJ says the State of California is the first and only state in the nation to have established an automated system for tracking firearm owners who fall into a prohibited status.
The APPS database works to identify individuals who previously procured firearms but later became barred from legally owning them because they were convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor, placed under a domestic violence or other restraining order, or suffer from serious mental illness.
“In California, we are consistently taking action to fight crime and protect our families by removing illegal guns from our neighborhoods,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Every day, CA DOJ agents put themselves in dangerous situations to keep guns out of the hands of gang members and other individuals who shouldn’t have them. As the nation continues to grapple with the gun violence crisis, California continues to make public safety our top priority.”
Agents at CA DOJ work to seize firearms from individuals who shouldn’t have them on a daily basis. In the last ten days alone, agents seized six assault weapons, eleven rifles, three shotguns and five handguns. Of the six assault weapons, two were “ghost gun” AR-15 rifles without serial numbers, and three were equipped with “bump stocks.” Ghost guns allow individuals to bypass background checks and registration regulations. Bump stocks are classified as “multi-burst trigger activators,” which California outlawed in 1990 because they allow a semi-automatic weapon to fire at nearly the rate of a machine gun. In addition to these weapons, CA DOJ agents seized over 10,000 rounds of ammunition, including 27 large-capacity magazines and eleven standard magazines. Agents also seized three grenade launchers.
The other significant cases resulting in these seizures and arrests are as follows:
- Cory James Shelton and Kay Stout, from Oroville, were arrested on March 6. Shelton is named in the APPS database due to a prior conviction for brandishing a firearm in 2014. Shelton, an alleged “Sureño” gang member, was prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition until July of 2024. Stout, a 75-year-old, purchased an AK-47 style assault weapon and later attempted to transfer the assault weapon to her grandson, Shelton. Upon their arrest, agents searched the subject’s home and seized three unsecured rifles and 91 rounds of ammunition.
- Kendale Standifer, from Pittsburg, was arrested on March 7. Standifer is named in the APPS database due to prior felony convictions for robbery, illegal possession of a firearm and grand theft. Standifer, an alleged “Broad Day” gang member, was prohibited from possessing firearms for life. Upon his arrest, DOJ agents searched his residence and seized a loaded semi-automatic handgun with seven rounds of ammunition, which he later admitted was obtained through an illegal transfer.
- Esther Clark and William Gary Clark, from Oroville, were arrested on March 7. Esther Clark is in the APPS database due to a 1992 felony conviction for welfare fraud. Esther Clark attempted to purchase a rifle, and when she was denied the sale, her husband William made the purchase. When DOJ agents searched the Clarks’ home, they found and seized five rifles, two shotguns, two handguns and approximately 700 rounds of ammunition. The firearms and ammunition were unsecured.
- Timothy Pope, from Norwalk, was arrested on February 28. Pope is named in the APPS database due to a felony conviction for possessing a destructive device. Upon his arrest, DOJ agents searched his residence and seized one handgun, one shotgun, three assault weapons and 6,500 rounds of ammunition. Two of the assault weapons were “ghost guns;” one was a short-barrel rifle; and the third was equipped with a “bump stock.”
- James Norman, from San Diego, was arrested on March 5. James Norman and his ex-wife Kristen both filed a domestic violence restraining orders against each other requiring the six firearms registered in the APPS database to be confiscated by DOJ agents. DOJ agents first contacted Kristen at her residence to seize the firearms. At that time, Kristen informed the agents that her ex-husband James Norman pressured her to purchase six firearms under her name. No firearms were found at her residence. However, when agents contacted James, they seized two rifles, one handgun, one “bump stock,” and 731 rounds of ammunition. James Norman was also prohibited from owning firearms and ammunition due to a conviction for rape.
- Brian Ojeda, from Riverside, was arrested on March 5. Ojeda is named in the APPS database due to the conditions of his probation. Upon his arrest, DOJ agents searched his residence and located approximately 2,000 rounds of ammunition. Ojeda told agents he was storing his firearms at his brother’s house, but when agents searched his residence, they found one unregistered assault weapon equipped with a “bump stock,” one rifle, one large capacity magazine, and 2,000 rounds of ammunition.
These cases will be referred to their local City or County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. These operations, as well as ongoing and day-to-day investigations, have reduced the number of individuals in the APPS database to a historic low. To date, Cal DOJ has removed 18,000 firearms from persons prohibited under California law from possessing them.