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Police will fight to hold guns this time

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore police officers raided the home of Mustafa Alif last week and took seven of his guns - the second time they have searched the house and the second time they seized some of the same guns.

This time, police officials said they will fight so they won't have to give the weapons back again.

In 2001, officers collected eight of Alif's guns but later returned them. In January, a Sig Sauer handgun that was taken and later returned to Alif was used to kill a city police officer.

"These guns are turning up on the streets in crimes," said Lt. Dan Lioi, an officer in the department's newly reinstated gun task force. "Based on those facts I think it would be ridiculous to have these guns end up back in his possession."

Police said about a half-dozen weapons once owned by Alif have been traced to criminal activity in the city - including one weapon they picked up when they arrested a man in Cherry Hill in April.

Alif said that the weapons connected with crimes were stolen from his house in 1999, and he believes he's being used as a "political football" in an election year.

He said he fought hard in 2001 to get the guns back from police after he was cleared of any wrongdoing but hasn't decided if he will do the same thing this time. He has not been charged with a crime.

"My property is my property," he said. "If it was a boat, I would fight for the boat."

He added: "Right now the tensions are high and the emotions are running. I'd like to let cool heads prevail."

Police raided Alif's house about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday because they suspect his son, Riyad Alif, is living there and has access to the weapons. Riyad Alif has been convicted of a felony and is not permitted to be around weapons, police said.

The decision to conduct the raid also reflects a more aggressive stance that the department is taking against those who carry or sell illegal weapons. It was one of the first seizures made by the re-established police gun unit that Mayor Sheila Dixon announced in April.

The unit includes state troopers, a Baltimore County officer and a federal agent, and it has 38 open gun cases, Lioi said, including 24 investigations into illegal transfers of weapons.

Sheryl Goldstein, the director of the mayor's council on criminal justice, said the goal is to develop a "zero tolerance" approach to gun crime in the city.

Goldstein said police have taken possession of 1,608 guns as of June 15 this year, an increase over last year, when police collected 1,469 guns in the same time period.

Members of the gun task force wrote the search-and-seizure warrant for Alif's house and were there for the Wednesday evening raid.

"We found guns in the basement and front bedroom," said Lioi. Weapons seized included a 7 mm sniper rifle with a scope and stand, three Sig Sauer handguns, an Egyptian-made semiautomatic AK-47 and two 12-gauge shotguns.

The AK-47 and one of the shotguns were among the guns that were seized and then returned in 2001. The other guns were new, police said.

Police said that two of the guns picked up Wednesday were kept locked in a case in the basement where Riyad was apparently staying, and the other five were upstairs unsecured, police said.

Alif denied that his 27-year old son is living with him, and he said that Riyad was just in town visiting for a family reunion. "My son feels bad enough for what happened," Mustafa Alif said. "He does feel bad."

Alif said that the guns used in crimes were all stolen from his home in two separate burglaries - one in the 1990s and another in 2006, when he told police that his son stole three additional weapons. One of the guns reported stolen in 2006 was used in the Jan. 9 killing of Officer Troy Chesley, according to police.

"Why now all of a sudden does this comes up?" Alif asked. "After all of these years, nothing, until the situation where the police officer was killed. Now they are trying to tie me into this as if I'm wholesaling guns, and that is not true."

Police said that they recovered a 12-gauge shotgun, which Alif purchased, while executing a search-and-seizure warrant at a different location in April 1999.

Two years later, in 2001, officers recovered a Desert Eagle .44-caliber handgun that they said Alif originally purchased. That gun was found when they searched a house on the 200 block of Athol Gate Road.

Another of his guns, a Sig Sauer, was recovered March 2006 in East Baltimore when a security officer with police powers spotted a man with a silver gun.

And another, a Sig Sauer customized with a laser for targeting, turned up on the lawn near where Chesley was shot.

It was that history that concerned police, Lioi said.

"We really didn't want any more of his guns showing up in violent crimes this summer."

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