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Suspected skid row drug dealer arrested on gun, drug charges

February 24, 2010 | 10:30 am

Guns A suspected skid row drug dealer was in custody Wednesday on gun and drug charges after Los Angeles police recovered a small cache of weapons from his downtown hotel room, along with evidence he was packaging cocaine and marijuana to sell, police said.

Inside the hotel room of Jimmy Joe Dukes at the epicenter of skid row, LAPD detectives last Friday seized five guns, including two shotguns and one stolen handgun, police said. Detectives suspected the longtime skid row resident was dealing drugs out of his Southern Hotel room at 5th and San Julian streets, said LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon.

Dukes, 55, initially admitted he possessed one handgun and denied having any drugs, Vernon said. After he allowed detectives to search his room, however, they found four more guns, scales and equipment coated with cocaine and marijuana.

The detectives also recovered plastic bags for selling the drugs, ammunition for the guns, brass knuckles and more than $800 cash, Vernon said.

The skid row area, with its large homeless population, remains a relatively high drug-traffic area as dealers seek to prey on the most vulnerable in society. With a surge in LAPD policing there in recent years, dealers have been forced to operate off the streets.

Dukes has a history of two dozen arrests, stretching back 35 years, on suspicion of assault, drug dealing, and gun possession, according to police. His only felony conviction, however, was in 2004 for welfare fraud, Vernon said.

“Arrests like this one are important and emblematic for two reasons,” he said. “These arrests throw criminals’ guns into a hole, never to see the light of day, and they truly show the term ‘nonviolent’ offender is a misnomer.”

The Los Angeles district attorney’s office has charged Dukes with four counts related to firearms possession, including being a convicted felon in possession of a gun. He was also charged with one count of possession of cocaine for sale. He is being held in lieu of $105,000 bail.

According to the LAPD, skid row crime is down about 35% compared with 2005. Gun crimes remain relatively rare, accounting for about 3% of major crimes in downtown last year.

“Every gun police take off the street is a potential murder averted,” Vernon said.

-- Richard Winton

Photo: Guns confiscated from a skid row hotel. Credit: Los Angeles Police Department