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June 19, 2021

DA drops charges against Gav basketball player

Prosecutors have dropped charges against a Gavilan College men’s basketball player who was one of more than 100 people arrested during “Operation Garlic Press” in October because he was mistakenly identified as a suspect, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.
Justin Wheat, 21, was arrested Oct. 14 and faced felony charges for allegedly selling an unlicensed firearm to undercover officers at a South County storage facility, which was used as a fake storefront during a 16-month investigation to root out violent criminals and gang members in Gilroy and surrounding cities.
But the District Attorney’s Office dropped the charges last Thursday because they determined it was a person who looked “nearly identical” to Wheat that borrowed the 6-foot-6-inch former Gilroy High School player’s car to drive to the covert spot and sell the gun, Deputy District Attorney Frank Carrubba said.
“We learned later that Justin had let someone borrow his car and he had never entered the shop,” Carrubba wrote in an email Monday.
Wheat is the only suspect who has had charges dismissed, Carrubba said.
When officers ran the car’s license plate number, the search generated a picture of Wheat. His height and weight matched that of the suspect who entered the storefront, so a felony warrant was issued for Wheat’s arrest, Carrubba said. He said the investigation that spurred Wheat’s arrest is ongoing but didn’t offer further details.
Almost 40 state and local law enforcement agencies collaborated on the highly celebrated Operation Garlic Press, which netted the recovery of 87 stolen cars, 50 firearms and bundles of narcotics. Fifty-three known gang members were arrested.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris and other officials beamed with pride during an Oct. 14 press conference to announce the operation’s haul.

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