Santa Cruz County District Attorney Bob Lee and Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano said Tuesday that charges may be filed against Khalil Rahim, the business owner allegedly found to be selling illegal knives, brass knuckles and drug paraphernalia out of three discount cigarette stores in Watsonville.
On Monday, Watsonville police conducted raids on three stores — Cigarette City at 1441 Freedom Blvd. and Discount Cigarettes at 218 Freedom Blvd. and 1938 Main St. — that were reportedly selling brass knuckles and switchblade, butterfly and spring-loaded buck knives and other similar illegal weapons. Police also confiscated glass pipes used for smoking cocaine and methamphetamine. All three stores were owned by Rahim’s family. Solano said Monday that charges would probably not be filed against Rahim because he was fully cooperative and voluntarily gave up $2,500 in merchandise. However, Lee met with Solano Tuesday morning and charges will likely be filed.
“I have met with Chief Solano and, in retrospect, he agrees with me that the case should come to my office for review,” Lee said. “We are holding kids accountable for possessing these weapons; why not hold the person accountable for selling them?”
On Monday, Rahim, who lives in San Jose but works at his stores in Watsonville, said he did not know the weapons and pipes he was selling were illegal and was unaware of the problems the city has with gang violence. Lee said he finds that hard to believe.
“We’ll let the evidence speak for itself, but we think those statements have credibility issues,” Lee said.
Lee said his office will use California Business and Professions Code 17200 regarding unfair and unlawful business practices to seek an injunction on Rahim’s businesses to stop them from selling illegal weapons. Rahim has similar businesses elsewhere in the region.
“That allows us to affect stores that are out of the county,” Lee said. “It’s one thing for a person to say, ‘I’m not going to do this anymore,’ but another to have a court order to say you cannot do this.”
Lee said his office is also looking to identify any other Santa Cruz County businesses that sell these weapons.
Solano said he is concerned there may be other outlets in Watsonville for similar merchandise, adding that the Watsonville Police Department will continue investigating.
“This brought to light that there are business owners who are taking advantage of public safety,” Solano said.
Solano said that his primary goal was getting the weapons off the street and Lee said the department should be commended for its quick work in doing that. The department was first alerted to the possible problem on Friday, and by Monday had already conducted the sting operation and had it cleaned up.
“Watsonville PD did excellent work,” Lee said. “Taking these weapons off the street is important.”
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