LOS ANGELES — The FBI is investigating whether members of the Los Angeles Police Department’s SWAT and special-investigations units violated the law by purchasing large numbers of custom-made handguns and reselling them for profit, according to interviews.
Federal authorities opened the inquiry into the alleged gun sales in recent weeks after police officials alerted them to possible gun violations, multiple sources told the Los Angeles Times.
The move comes after an earlier police investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of officers. But on Friday, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck acknowledged that the probe was “clearly lacking” and said the department has opened a second investigation of the weapons transactions that is still ongoing.
Suspicion over the guns arose in May 2010, when a lieutenant in the department’s metropolitan division, which includes the SWAT unit, attempted to inventory the division’s weapons, according to a whistleblower lawsuit filed by the lieutenant and a report last year by the department’s inspector general, Alex Bustamante.
While accounting for the weapons, Lt. Armando Perez discovered that SWAT members had purchased an unknown number of pistols from the gunmaker Kimber Manufacturing and were “possibly reselling these Kimber firearms for large profits to people outside of Metro SWAT,” according to the lawsuit and Bustamante’s report.
There are some indications the guns were sold to other officers outside the units and others outside law enforcement. The FBI is expected to look as well into the possibility that officers from the department’s special-investigations section, which conducts surveillance in major, high-risk cases, were also improperly reselling Kimber guns, the sources said.
A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to comment. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment.