Fells Point Raid Fails To Net High-powered Guns

July 18, 2009|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Peter.hermann@baltsun.com

Baltimore County police and federal immigration agents raided a Fells Point bar July 8 searching for four high-powered handguns that authorities said had been purchased by the club owner with the help of a foreign national visiting from the Philippines, according to reports filed Friday with the city's liquor board.

The guns, which each cost about $1,200, are described in the reports as FN 5.7 mm pistols manufactured by FN Herstal in Belgium that fire military-style rounds at high velocity, capable of piercing ballistic body armor. The company's Web site says the guns are recommended for use by NATO forces and can be used "to defeat the enemy in all close combat situations in urban areas, jungle conditions, night missions and any self defense action."

Police initially thought the weapons had been shipped out of the country, but several efforts to locate them in shipping crates, in luggage and at the bar, Cheerleaders in the 700 block of S. Broadway, were unsuccessful, according to the police report and the search warrant application.

No charges have been filed, but police say the investigation is continuing.

The police report says the bar owner, Vincente Paviera Javellana Jr., and his wife may now be in the Philippines and quotes his lawyer saying that "he doubted whether the Javellanas would return to the United States in light of everything that is going on with this investigation."

The detailed police report answers many questions that hovered over the raid at the bar, which was witnessed by residents and has been the talk of the Fells Point pubs. Cheerleaders, which has accumulated thousands of dollars in fines levied by the liquor board for underage drinking and fights, was also targeted by residents and other business owners who signed a petition hoping to get it closed down.

Gary Maslan, the attorney for the owner, has not returned calls seeking comment over the past several days. The owner, who lives in Timonium, could not be reached for comment Friday. City police, who assisted in the raid despite earlier denials from a department official, seized the liquor license but has returned it to the proprietors, a spokesman said.

Baltimore County police began the investigation May 4 when a manager at Continental Arms in Cockeysville notified a detective about a questionable gun purchase. The police report says the owner of Cheerleaders inquired about buying two FN 5.7 mm handguns but that another man, later identified as a visitor from the Philippines legally here on a visa, had put the purchase on his credit card.

Later that same day, police said the bar owner's wife walked into the store and inquired about buying two more of the same guns and put up a $500 down payment. Police said the store manager contacted authorities because he felt the guns were being bought by one person to give to somebody else, an illegal act known as a "straw purchase."

Police and immigration agents then watched as the transactions unfolded and the bar owner picked up the guns. The man who had paid for the first two guns left the country May 12. Police said undercover officers watched as the bar owner and his wife picked up the guns from the shop May 12.

On May 23, authorities said the wife and four other women left for the Philippines and had checked 11 pieces of luggage. Federal agents searched the luggage at a refueling stop in Guam and while they found no guns, they reported finding a receipt for a shipping container headed to the Philippines listed as containing "household goods."

Police said they interviewed Vincente Javellana on the front porch of his Timonium house and, according to the report, he told them that two of the guns were in "different places in the container" the other two for his use in Baltimore. But he said the guns were not in his house.

It took two weeks before the container could be rerouted back to the port of Baltimore, but the police report said a search by U.S. Customs agents turned up no weapons. In their search warrant application, county police wrote that they believe the guns were obtained "for illicit purposes" and that the Javellanas "no longer possess the four firearms." The law requires any transfer of handguns to be processed through the Maryland State Police.

The Baltimore County police report says officers had to kick down the front door of Cheerleaders to get inside but that they only seized a computer from the second floor.

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