The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recently denied the Pasadena Weekly’s appeal for the release of a federal search warrant and affidavit served on a local police officer at his Sierra Madre home.
“ATF properly withheld this information in full because it is protected from disclosure under the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act],” wrote Sean O’Neil, who leads the department’s administrative appeals staff.
Lt. Vasken Gourdikian’s home was searched on Feb. 16, and officials with the ATF seized nearly 60 firearms, including several off-roster weapons.
That same day, the Pasadena Weekly filed a request for the federal documents that were used to execute the search, but the US Department of Justice refused to release the documents on the grounds it could impede the federal investigation.
The Weekly later appealed that decision after ATF officials verified previously unreleased information — including Gourdikian’s name and a list of the weapons seized from his home — in a seizure list posted on April 30.
The appeal was filed on the grounds that information included in the seizure list would have been on the search warrant and there was no longer any reason to keep the document sealed.
But in a July 5 letter to the Weekly, the ATF cites an exemption that allows federal agencies to withhold documents if by providing records “it can reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.”
O’Neil said the documents would be released after the investigation is concluded.
The affidavit in the case could contain a statement of probable cause and a summary of the case to date. The affidavit is required to get a judge’s signature on a search warrant.
Gourdikian sold off-roster weapons on Calguns.net, a website frequented by gun owners and advocates. However, Gourdikian may have sold too many weapons on the website, including some that were brand new.
It is against the law to act as a firearms dealer in California without a federal firearms license (FFL), and firearms cannot be purchased for resale. Many of the guns that Gourdikian sold had never been opened and were described as brand new in the box, or BNIB, on the Calguns website.
Gourdikian has been placed on administrative leave with pay and has earned more than $45,000 of his annual $135,000 salary since he was sent home more than four months ago.