Two owners of an Arroyo Grande gun shop who were arrested by state law enforcement agents Nov. 16 on suspicion of illegally possessing assault weapons will not face local charges, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office said Thursday.
The Tribune also learned that one of the two AR-15 rifles the business owners were accused of possessing was provided for consignment sale by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office to comply with a court order.
It’s not clear, however, whether Stefanie and Dylan Todd, owners of the Outdoorsman, are completely out of legal trouble.
The California Department of Justice, which arrested the couple, has declined to comment on the case to The Tribune or explain how the business owners allegedly broke the law. The agency — which could still file charges through the state Attorney General’s Office — did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Jerret Gran said Thursday his office reviewed the case based on information provided by the Department of Justice and decided it didn’t meet its standards for prosecution.
“The case was reviewed and we consulted with the Department of Justice, but we felt we simply couldn’t prove (a crime was committed) beyond a reasonable doubt,” Gran said.
This has definitely been a roller coaster.
Stefanie Todd, co-owner of The Outdoorsman in Arroyo Grande
Stefanie Todd said Thursday that she’s grateful for the District Attorney’s decision and said the situation has been difficult for her family, which has owned the shop for less than a year.
“This has definitely been a roller coaster,” Stefanie Todd said. “But the outpouring of support from the community has been overwhelming.”
The Todds were arrested and booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail on suspicion of possessing assault weapons and possessing assault weapons for sale, according to jail logs. They were released after posting about $20,000 in bail each, according to their attorney, Greg Jacobson.
Four days later, the Arroyo Grande Police Department issued a news release saying that the Department of Justice had made the arrests following an audit of the business, and referred all questions to the state.
Since their arrest, scores of local residents have come to the Todds’ defense on social media, and a fundraiser has been scheduled for Sunday to help pay the couple’s legal bills.
Asked what led to their arrests, Jacobson said the couple was provided an AR-15 rifle by the Sheriff’s Office’s property division along with other weapons from private owners who could no longer legally possess them.
The Outdoorsman, a federally licensed firearms dealer, was to sell the weapons on consignment.
However, Jacobson said the AR-15 in question had a “bullet button,” a feature that forces a user to use a tool to release the firearm’s magazine. According to the Attorney General’s website, effective January 2017, firearms featuring a bullet button are now considered “assault weapons” and need to be registered as such. Jacobson said the Todds were under the impression they had until July to sell the weapon.
Shortly after the Todds gained possession of the AR-15, a private owner brought in a similar rifle for the shop to sell, Jacobson said. Because the Sheriff’s Office had provided them the previous rifle, the store owners believed they were following the law, he said.
Department of Justice agents visited the store shortly thereafter and later arrested the Todds.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla confirmed Thursday that one of the AR-15 rifles was among several firearms provided to the business by the Sheriff’s Office in a routine, court-ordered transfer.
“It was a court order for the Sheriff’s Office to relinquish that weapon to the Outdoorsman, which possesses a federal firearms license. They are obligated to follow all laws for where that weapon can be sold,” Cipolla wrote in an email. “This is common for a weapon to be seized by the Sheriff’s Office and then an order from the court to be released to a (licensed) gun dealer to be sold.”
Cipolla said the order came from a Superior Court judge that listed the weapon’s specific make, model and serial number.
“We are legally obligated to comply with a court order,” Cipolla said.
Jacobson said the incident underscores the complexity and evolving nature of California gun laws.
“We were trying to be fully compliant with the law,” Stefanie Todd said.
Jacobson on Thursday said he respects the District Attorney’s Office decision, saying that in this “anti-gun climate,” prosecutors could have taken the case to court under political pressure.
He added, however, that the couple’s arrest has damaged their reputation, hurt their business and negatively impacted their children, who were present during their parents’ arrests.
Asked about whether the Todds can recoup their financial losses through a lawsuit against the state, Jacobson said that while he’s not a civil attorney, he is researching what legal recourse the couple has.
A fundraiser has been organized for the couple by Red Dirt Coffee and Big Country Bar-B-Que. The event will be held from noon to 3 p.m. at Red Dirt Coffee at 1452 East Grand Ave. in Arroyo Grande.