San Joaquin County Sheriff seizes nearly 10,000 pounds of illegal fireworks

Jul. 9—FRENCH CAMP — The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office announced this week that its illegal fireworks task force seized 9,962.5 pounds of illegal fireworks in the two months leading up to the Independence Day holiday.

Of those seized, 380 were commercial fireworks typically used for public performances, and 540 were destructive devices, Sheriff Pat Withrow said during a Wednesday press conference.

“Those destructive devices were M80s, M1000s,” he said. “Those are bombs. People have to understand how dangerous these things are. (People) just think it’s fun. But you can go online and just watch video after video of people exploding their hands. These things are very dangerous and unpredictable when not made legally.”

Some 448 pounds of those fireworks were seized from a home in Ripon on June 15 that made headlines when the family who lived there claimed deputies used excessive force in the raid.

The Sheriff’s Office has stated that the search warrant used to conduct the seizure was made after an ongoing investigation of an illegal fireworks operation that was connected to the residence.

Deputies had to take precautions due to knowledge of criminal history and firearms inside the residence, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The Sheriff’s Office has released bodycam footage of the raid, which can be found at tinyurl.com/RiponRaid.

In addition to nearly 10,000 illegal fireworks seized throughout the county, Withrow said the task force also confiscated nine illegal firearms, including one fully-automatic “ghost gun” similar to an AR-15 pistol, one short-barreled “ghost gun” similar to an AR-15 rifle and a sawed-off shotgun.

Seven of the firearms seized were handguns, of which one was stolen.

Members of the task force also confiscated 8.7 grams of cocaine and nine pounds of marijuana, Withrow said.

Last year, the task force seized 1.5 pounds of methamphetamine, 37 pounds of processed marijuana and one ounce of cocaine, he said.

In all, 17 arrests were made, and an additional 16 cases were referred to the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office for review, Withrow said.

District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said the 16 cases referred to her office are all felonies, and those charged may be fined as much as $50,000 and face as many as three years in jail.

A felony is charged when someone is in possession of more than 100 pounds of illegal fireworks, and a misdemeanor is charged with possession is less than that, she said.

Salazar said this year’s operation was “an impressive amount” of illegal fireworks seized.

“This is a significant takedown and it shows,” she said. “Illegal fireworks are a pervasive issue in our county, as evidenced by the fact three times the amount were seized this year over last year. Every year illegal fireworks cause additional harm to our community in the form of injuries, property damage, fires and more. Sales can also create a devastating impact in connection with illegal firearms and drugs.”

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