One of the stolen guns was used in the shooting of a University Police Department officer in 2017.
The Eureka man with an outlaw name who was behind a brazen gun theft at Pacific Outfitters nearly four years ago was recently sentenced to 33 months in prison after pleading guilty to the crime in federal court.
Jesse James Marquez was 19 when he cut power lines to the sporting goods store in August of 2015 to dismantle the alarm before breaking in through a skylight and proceeding to make off with the trove of 55 handguns that had been stored in a cabinet. Two weeks, later he took off to Oregon.
Since then, only 17 of the weapons have been recovered, according to the Eureka Police Department, with most found during criminal investigations — several drug-related from Southern Humboldt to Oregon and even out east in Georgia.
One was brandished by Ervin Eugene Sweat Jr. when he nearly killed University Police Department officer Louis Altic, who was shot in the leg in September of 2017 after responding to the Arcata Plaza on reports of a fight involving an armed suspect. Sweat was killed when Altic and another officer returned fire.
“In addition to the prison term, Judge Breyer sentenced Marquez to a three-year term of supervised release and ordered Marquez to pay restitution to Pacific Outfitters in the amount of $56,600,” a Department of Justice press release states.
The brash crime was one of the main reasons then Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills proposed an ordinance — which he withdrew days later amid a public backlash — that would require gun owners and sellers within city limits to lock up their weapons when they weren’t home or a business was closed.
“People have the right to bear arms but that’s just the point — to bear arms. Not to leave them lying around unprotected,” Mills said at the time. “[The ordinance was] written specifically so if someone is home or at their business, they can have all the guns they want lying about, because they're in control of their firearms. It has nothing to do with ‘when somebody goes to bed at night, can they have a gun on their nightstand?’ Of course they can. This is America.”
According to an EPD release, detectives “developed probable cause” that Marquez was involved in the theft and requested the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which took over the investigation.
The federal warrant was issued for Marquez on May 10, 2018, one year to the day of his sentencing, and he was arrested by ATF special agents on July 16, 2018, in a home just outside Eureka.
Read the DOJ release below:
Jesse James Marquez was sentenced on Friday to 33 months in prison for his role in the theft and subsequent sale of 55 firearms from a sporting goods store in Eureka, California, in August 2015. The sentence was imposed by the Honorable Charles R. Breyer, U.S. Senior District Judge.
In a plea agreement, Marquez admitted he cut the power lines to disable the alarm at Pacific Outfitters, located at 1600 Fifth Street, Eureka, California 95501, in the early morning hours of August 8, 2015. He then climbed on the roof and broke through a skylight to gain access to the firearms. He broke into a cabinet containing firearms and then carried 55 handguns out of the store in a backpack, forcing open a roll up door to exit the store. After he stole the guns, Marquez stored them until he was able to sell them.
A number of the stolen firearms have been recovered by police officers in California, Oregon, Georgia and elsewhere, including at the scene of a homicide in Arcata, California in September 2017.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Breyer sentenced Marquez to a 3-year term of supervised release and ordered Marquez to pay restitution to Pacific Outfitters in the amount of $56,600. He has been remanded into custody since entering his guilty plea and will begin serving his sentence immediately.
Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan U. Lee prosecuted this case with the assistance of Kimberley Richardson and Hector Lopez. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives and the Eureka Police Department.
Read the EPD release below:
During the early morning hours of August 8th, 2015, officers of the Eureka Police Department (EPD) responded to a burglary report at a business at the 1600 block of 5th Street in Eureka.
Early into the investigation it was determined that a suspect breached a rooftop sky light on the business. The suspect entered the upstairs level of the building and disarmed the alarm. The suspect collected 55 handguns into several backpacks and then broke an alley door’s locking system to escape.
Eureka Police Department Detectives developed probable cause that nineteen year old Eureka resident Jesse James Marquez was the suspect. Marquez had moved to Oregon about two weeks after the burglary. EPD Detectives requested the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). ATF assumed the investigation and the Eureka Detectives assisted.
A Federal arrest warrant was issued for Marquez on May 10th, 2018. Marquez was arrested by ATF Special Agents on July 16th, 2018, in a home just outside of Eureka. He was charged with 18 U.S.C. 922(u) “Theft of firearms from a FFL dealer” and 18 U.S.C. 922(j), “sale of stolen firearms”. On May 13th, 2019, Marquez pled guilty and was given a sentence of 33 months incarceration and 3 years of supervised probation, upon release from incarceration.
The Eureka Police Department would like to thank the Business’ management for their cooperation. We would also like to thank the ATF and the Attorney General’s office in San Francisco for their partnership in this investigation. If not for this team work, Marquez may not have been brought to justice and held accountable for his actions.