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Police arrest Tapia on gun possession charge

May 19, 1997

BIG BEAR, Calif. (AP) _ An attorney for WBO junior bantamweight champion Johnny Tapia says the boxer’s arrest in California on a gun possession charge should not affect his Las Vegas bout against Danny Romero.

But an Albuquerque prosecutor said the process for determining whether Tapia has violated probation could take only a few weeks, threatening a scheduled July 18 bout with Romero, the IBF junior bantamweight champ.

Tapia was arrested in California last Thursday on a charge of being a felon in possession of a weapon. Attorney Jerry Walz of Albuquerque said he was released that night on a $15,000 bond.

Tapia is on probation in New Mexico for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. His probation ends July 19, according to district court records. He pleaded guilty to the charge on Oct. 16, 1995.

As a convicted felon, he loses the right to possess firearms.

Top Rank, co-promoter for the fight, ``has taken the position the fight is still on, and they’re supporting Johnny 100 percent,″ Walz said Monday.

Walz said the charge was a technical one.

Two weapons registered to Tapia’s wife, Teresa, were found in an apartment owned by the Tapias but separate from their house, Walz said. The apartment is occupied by Mrs. Tapia’s brother, Robert Gutierrez, he said.

``Teresa had placed them there and Johnny was not aware of their location,″ he said. ``This is a very, very technical charge brought against him.″

Walz also said Big Bear sheriff’s deputies knew Mrs. Tapia had a weapon. He said they had returned a gun registered to her 4 1/2 weeks ago after it was found in the glove box of vehicle driven by another brother arrested on drunken driving charge.

He said California authorities gave the ``felon in possession of a weapon″ statute a very broad interpretation since no weapon was found on Tapia.

``It was not on (Johnny’s) person or in his vehicle,″ he said.

Rob Ciolli, a corporal in the Big Bear Lake Sheriff’s Department, said Sunday a probation-and-parole sweep of the Big Bear area Thursday turned up a firearm on Tapia’s property.

Ciolli said it was unlikely California law enforcement authorities would pursue the matter.

``We searched his house because he was on probation in New Mexico,″ Ciolli said. ``It’s probably up to New Mexico whether they want to do anything about it.″

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