Nearly a week after Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero’s arrest at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport, Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, finally provided a statement answering swirling speculation as to why the Gilroy boxing champion had a gun in his possession.
On Tuesday evening, Schaefer explained that Guerrero, who was in New York promoting his upcoming May 4 showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr., traveled with a gun last week because he intended to use it at a Las Vegas shooting range.
“Robert’s hobby is to shoot guns at the shooting range,” Schaefer told the Dispatch in a phone interview. “He was planning to take the gun with him to Las Vegas and do that at one of the shooting ranges there.”
The interim World Boxing Council welterweight champion, however, was unaware of the strict New York state gun laws, which have Guerrero facing felony charges for one count of criminal possession of a firearm and three counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, according to the Queens County District Attorney’s office. Guerrero was in possession of an unloaded Smith and Wesson M&P 40 caliber handgun at the time of his arrest.
“There were no bad intentions,” Schaefer added. “Those who know Robert know (his) kind of values and what he stands for.”
The gun, originally reported as unlicensed by the DA’s office, is registered to Guerrero in California, according to Kevin R. Ryan, director of communications for the Queens County DA’s Office.
Guerrero, who was booked on Delta Flight 1429 bound for Las Vegas, followed legal requirements – the firearm was in a locked gun case and he declared at the Delta ticket counter that he had a firearm in his luggage, Ryan said. But Guerrero does not possess a New York City gun license. Because Guerrero had been staying in New York since March 25, rather than just flying in and flying out, that makes it a crime, Ryan said.
“The fact that he had disclosed the guns, (had) no ammunition, all of those aspects clearly show that this was an innocent incident,” Schaefer explained.
Guerrero, however, also had in his possession three unloaded magazines with the capacity to hold 15 rounds of ammunition, which is illegal in both New York and California. Guerrero’s weapon and the 15 bullet clips were discovered during a routine pre-flight check-in, according to a news release from Queens County DA Richard A. Brown.
The time Guerrero spent in New York with the gun is important, Ryan said, because the law does make allowances if the person is simply getting off one flight and connecting with another. Ryan did not know if Guerrero had the gun in his carry-on or checked luggage.
Guerrero was arraigned March 28 before Queens Criminal Court Judge Ernest Hart. His next court date is set for Tuesday, May 14 in New York. While Guerrero faces up to four years in prison on the gun charge, he faces a stiffer sentence of up to seven years for possessing high-capacity bullet magazines, according to the Queens County DA’s Office.
Guerrero, who was released on his own recognizance, left New York and flew back to Las Vegas to resume his training, according to Schaefer.
"Robert will have to show up in court in New York and have to explain himself, but there are no implications on the fight," Schaefer said.
For Guerrero, it is also the biggest fight of his professional career with the biggest payday, a reported $5 million. It will be the first time Gilroy’s prized pugilist will be the featured fight on a Pay-per-view card when he steps into the ring May 4 at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Guerrero will fight against pound-for-pound champion Mayweather Jr.
“I hope that Mr. Guerrero fights better than he thinks. For anyone who hasn’t gotten the message, let me be crystal clear. You cannot bring an unlicensed weapon – loaded or unloaded – into this county or this city. And if you do you will be arrested and face felony charges,” Brown said via the news release.
Guerrero, who celebrated his 30th birthday last week, had finished an East Coast media swing that included appearances with his wife Casey, a leukemia survivor.
Standing at the front door of the couple’s Gilroy residence, his wife Casey confirmed hours after Guerrero’s March 28 arrest that she was with her husband for a March 25 appearance on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club” in Norfolk, Va., with evangelist Pat Robertson before returning to New York. She parted with Robert March 27 to fly home while he stayed with his father and the rest of the Guerrero entourage.
Brown said passengers “should first acquaint themselves with the weapon laws” of anywhere they are traveling or else they “may find themselves being arrested and charged with a felony.”
In Gilroy, Marcus Medina, a senior baseball player at Gilroy High School who was working out late Thursday morning with two of his teammates at Gilroy Health & Fitness, said he has a friend who is related to Guerrero and would go over to his home to get autographs.
“I was surprised. I don’t even know why he had a gun," Medina said.
George Villa, a personal trainer at Gilroy Health & Fitness, lives in Salinas and goes to school at Gavilan College. He met Guerrero once while getting a haircut.
“He was a humble guy. That’s why it kind of surprised me. I’ve been following him since he was an amateur," Villa said. “It doesn’t really affect the way I look at the guy. He’s still a good, humble person who helps out the community.”
When Gilroy Mayor Don Gage was notified about Guerrero’s arrest, he said: “I know Robert. I have no idea why he was doing that or what his reason was. It will have to work itself out, I guess.”
Guerrero’s publicist, Mario Serrano, was contacted numerous times by the Dispatch during the last week, but refused to give any details about his client’s arrest or a statement from Guerrero addressing his hometown fans. Serrano would not answer questions about when and where Guerrero purchased the gun.
“You got the statement yesterday (March 28) and it’s clear what happened,” said Serrano in a e-mail, referring to a joint statement with Golden Boy Promotions and Mayweather Promotions that was released late Thursday afternoon.
Scott Forstner is a general assignment reporter who covers education and other community issues for the Morgan Hill Times. Reach him at (408) 847-7158 or via email at email@example.com