Justice Prevails: California DOJ Forced to Return 500+ Guns to FFL Dealer

(Photo: Fresno Bee)

Over 500 firearms have been returned to a California FFL dealer and his family after a lengthy battle with the California Department of Justice (DOJ).

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Jonathan Conklin ordered in December that the guns be turned over to the Fresno firearms dealer on behalf of the family. The state has since complied with that order.

California’s DOJ arrested Albert Sheakalee and seized 541 firearms in a highly publicized sting in 2015. According to a press release from then-Attorney General Kamala Harris, Shekalee was arrested “due to a prior mental health hold,” which prohibited him from owning firearms and allegedly landed him in the state’s Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) database.

But the state never filed any charges. After receiving national media attention—including a press conference displaying all 541 guns—the case never moved forward.

“As far as I am concerned, it was a real political deal,” Sheakalee’s attorney, Mark Coleman, told the Fresno Bee. “(California Attorney General Kamala) Harris was running for senator.”

Harris, who won her Senate seat last November, said in 2015 that “removing firearms from dangerous and violent individuals who pose a threat to themselves and the public is a top priority for the California Department of Justice.”

Perhaps the state decided not to file charges when they realized Sheakalee had no criminal record, legally owned all his firearms, owned a retirement home, and was the retired budget director of Fresno Community Hospital.

In any case, while Sheakalee wouldn’t face jail time, he and his family weren’t able to get their guns back until they went to court. Sheakalee was notified in July 2016 that he would not face charges and told to contact the DOJ about returning his property. After contacting multiple DOJ agents without success, Agent Isaias Rivera finally informed Sheakalee that his weapons would not be returned.

Coleman argued in court (and proved using postal records) that the state didn’t notify Sheakalee of his ineligibility to own firearms until after the raid took place. Coleman also noted that the DOJ broke a promise to Sheakalee to keep the raid confidential until a court hearing determined whether he was mentally fit to own guns.

“The problem is with the way (the guns were seized),” Coleman told the Bee. “This has been a pretty traumatic experience for the family.”

All of Sheakalee’s firearms have been returned to him and his family, including 209 handguns, 88 shotguns, 234 rifles, 100,000 rounds of ammunition and 10 guns designated assault weapons under California law, including a .50 caliber bolt-action rifle.

While Sheakalee’s victory is cause to celebrate, misapplied prohibitions against firearms ownership for the mentally incompetent will continue to be a battle for the pro-gun community.

As Coleman pointed out to the Bee, targeting those seeking mental health care is “going to result in people refusing to seek mental health treatment” because they do not want to be in a database, causing “an incredible chilling effect.”

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Thor Odinson April 28, 2017, 4:38 pm

    Amazing. This is what limits such abuse in CO
    (1) Emergency procedure may be invoked under either one of the following two conditions:

    (a) (I) When any person appears to have a mental illness and, as a result of such mental illness, appears to be an imminent danger to others or to himself or herself or appears to be gravely disabled, then a person specified in subparagraph (II) of this paragraph (a), each of whom is referred to in this section as the “intervening professional”, upon probable cause and with such assistance as may be required, may take the person into custody, or cause the person to be taken into custody, and placed in a facility designated or approved by the executive director for a seventy-two-hour treatment and evaluation.

    (II) The following persons may effect a seventy-two-hour hold as provided in subparagraph (I) of this paragraph (a):

    (A) A certified peace officer; Now these guys have NO training as a mental professional and as you can read the limit is 72 hours……..not entry into a database affecting a person for the rest of his life. I’m surprised CA didn’t sell the confiscated guns with the cash going to the law enforcement agency. Thor

  • Byron Winchell April 21, 2017, 1:50 pm

    Perhaps we should imply in law the existence of a “mental health hold” suspending from office politicians and officers who show a manifest tendency to abuse their powers. Thus we avoid serious rights infractions against citizens by these mentally ill predators setting up arrest and seizure scenarios where life and limb may be threatened. The politician or officer could resume their office, which is a privilege after all, upon proving in court that they do not have these tendencies. If they cannot do that, they should be barred from further office. I say “imply in law” because a statutory provision is unlikely to get through the LibProg legislature. The implication would apply whenever any law is applied to a citizen challenging his rights on the basis of “mental health.”

  • Todd April 17, 2017, 12:16 pm

    Why write the “article” without some background info on the particular form or interpretation of the “mental health hold”? This would allow us to understand the conditions of both the original confiscation and the reversal. This is the kind of emotionally oriented click-bait Yahoo news items infesting the internet these days.

    As far as we know, the initial interpretation of his past “condition” was in fact grounds. It would seem that is issue is not being informed of his denied status and in fact is NOT having his firearms returned to him but rather his family.

    Todd.

    Todd.

  • V. Nick Giotta April 17, 2017, 1:09 am

    No apologies from DOJ Can they be sued for violation of constitutional rights ?

  • Scott Syverson April 14, 2017, 7:31 pm

    California ignorance is breath taking. Using their logic, If you get a cold you will always be sick in the eyes of government. Not all mental disorders are permanent. There are a good many mental illness that you can recover from or receive medication to ameliorate. What’s even more funny is that psychopaths, under current psychological and psychiatric standards, is not considered a disease or mental health disorder. It is described as a personality disorder, which does not fall under the disease standard of the law. So you can be diagnosed as a psychopath and be legally sold a gun, but if you have a transient mental health disorder from which you recover, you can not. Way to go California! That’s fixing the problem….

  • Patriot April 14, 2017, 10:13 am

    Why would the people of California elect a person such as Harris who uses people, lies and misleads people for her personal interests? Her actions in this case were very detrimental to Sheakalee and his family and were found to be legally unfounded yet Harris seems to have benefitted from the lies and being elected. The people of California have another senator of the same ilk as Pelosi, Feinstein, and conspirators Schumer, Soros, and Bloomberg. Maybe someday they will see the light.

    • Maha April 14, 2017, 1:12 pm

      California wants its citizens unarmed, defenseless as possible, and reliant on the leftist loons in Sacramento. They tax the heck out of them, take their guns, and protect illegal alien criminals from prosecution and deportation. They “pioneer” ideas like ethanol in gasoline, and wind up damaging water tables, not to mention engines, much more than if they had simply left the fuel alone.

  • gust firchow April 14, 2017, 9:41 am

    This is the norm for California residents. Our state lawmakers think the right to bear arms is a privilege not a RIGHT as guaranteed by our Constitution. Like sheep, little by little our rights are led to the slaughter house for extinction. Every time there is a killing anywhere, the idiots in Sacramento rush to add more restrictions to already too many. When will they get it through their heads a criminally minded individual will acquire a gun regardless of how many laws banning them are in effect.

    • Texican April 14, 2017, 9:11 pm

      “When will they get it through their heads a criminally minded individual will acquire a gun regardless of how many laws banning them are in effect.”

      The leftist politicians are neither naive nor stupid. They know exactly why gun control is powerless to stop crime. Everything they say in public is for the consumption of the masses with left leaning beliefs (they are the ones that are naive and stupid). You cannot build a socialist society which mandates certain beliefs and behavior when the people have the means to resist – pure and simple. Therefore, gun control is merely there to remove the means to resist. It is all about control and power.

      The old saying that liberty is protected by three boxes: (1) the voting box, (2) the jury box, and finally (3) the cartridge box tells you what is going on. The leftists capture the voting box through any means necessary including voter fraud (and illegal alien voting). Then they attempt to nullify the jury box by flooding the court system with leftist judges who rule on “what should be” rather than the law as it is.

      That leaves only one thing in their way to eliminating your liberties – the cartridge box. That is why they espouse and push gun control. They don’t care a hoot about citizen safety. In fact, higher crime just makes the masses clamor for more government power to combat crime. Get it? Gun control eliminates the last blockade to their quest for complete and total power over each of our individual lives.

  • Awesome Bill from Dawsonville April 14, 2017, 9:05 am

    My hope is that he can force the state to pay for all of his legal fees.

  • Ed Sjolin April 14, 2017, 7:39 am

    Jesus wept. How do these abysmally ignorant people get put in positions of power? I am a tolerant person. I believe everyone has a right to whatever cock-eyed idea they can come up with. When it infringes MY rights, as a citizen of this country, I get realy, really pissed. Over the years I have owned firearms and over the years I have passed them along to others until I have only one Remington Model 514 .22 rifle. Over the course of the 60 years I have owned it I have never so much as threatened anyone with but if they show up at MY door, this may change.

  • jay April 14, 2017, 3:55 am

    In the meanwhile where are all the fast an the furious guns ,,to this day all we hear is crickets chirping, this case cost the taxpayers how much ?

  • Cyberrifles April 14, 2017, 3:25 am

    Same thing happened to Randy Weaver. Not notified of warrant and then arrested and family killed because he failed to respond to a warrant that was not sent. And the G wonders why it is not trusted!

    • krinkov545 April 14, 2017, 8:14 am

      I think the court changed Weaver hearing date and failed notify him.

  • SuperG April 13, 2017, 11:18 am

    I hope he sues them for legal fees and wins, too. But it was all about getting Harris elected so she can drive more anti-gun legislation.

  • Will Drider April 11, 2017, 6:27 pm

    Who is going to pay for the background check so the 541 firearms can be released from the FFL to the owner? How many additional 4473s will be needed to list them all. Is the FFL going to get $ XX transfer fee on each firearm? STATE TOOK THEM, STATE SHOULD PAY ALL FEES RELATED TO THERE RETURN TO THE OWNER!

    • Mike Hockurtz April 12, 2017, 11:41 pm

      They were returned. Since he already owned them, they were not transferred, so no 4473s were needed. In addition, he’s an FFL, so no 4473s were needed, just his Bound Volume, which almost certainly already had every one of those guns recorded.

      If you had taken the time to read the article, you would have plenty of facts to complain about. Making them up out of ignorance is no help to our cause.

      • Criss April 14, 2017, 9:43 pm

        Actually, California will not release firearms back to normal folks (FFL may be exempt) without a background recheck and fees paid even if ownership is not in question. This form is from the CA DOJ website here: https://www.oag.ca.gov/firearms/forms and this is the “Law Enforcement Gun Release Application” form – https://www.oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/firearms/forms/legr.pdf?. They charge $20.00 for the first gun and $3.00 for each additional gun. The fee can be waived if you go to court. The requirements are on the form.

        CA really, really hates guns. But you can surf and ski the same day.

        Criss

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