Peabody Man Facing Drug, Gun Charges Claims Gun Was Just a Prop

A 28-year-old Peabody man was arrested Friday on charges of possession of heroin with intent to distribute and illegal possession of a gun.

Joel Ayala says the handgun police found in a bedroom safe in his home is just a prop, but police believe a ballistics report will prove otherwise.

Ayala, 28, of 2 Munroe Ct. #1, Peabody, was arrested at his home early Friday morning by a joint police task force with a warrant to search the premises. The officers were accompanied by a regional SWAT team and three K-9 units.

Police seized heroin, drug paraphernalia, cash and a semi-automatic handgun from the home. They arrested Ayala on charges of possession to distribute a Class A drug and possession of a firearm without a license.

He was arraigned in Peabody District Court that afternoon and a plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf.

Assistant District Attorney Kate Sarmini summarized a police report detailing how officers arrived at the home at 5 a.m. and took Ayala into custody.

At first, he told officers he didn't know why they were there, according to the report, but after being informed of the drug sniffing dogs outside, admitted he had a small amount of drugs -- "a couple spindles" for his personal use.

Officers questioned him about his brother, but he said the brother hadn't lived there for a while. Ayala also told officers he purchased something in Salem that "shoots things."

Police found a digital scale in a bathroom and an unloaded semi-automatic handgun in a bedroom safe, along with 4 grams of heroin in a bag and a box containing 180 plastic bags. A second safe contained identification belonging to Ayala's brother and $1,100.

Sarmini asked for $10,000 cash bail, detailing Ayala's probation record that involves at least three convictions in Salem and Lynn district courts on assault and malicious damage charges, as well as a juvenile record and numerous harassment orders.

There was some disagreement between her and Ayala's attorney on whether he did in fact violate his probation though.

Ayala's attorney said his client suffered from depression and anxiety, had a "severe learning disability" and was receiving government assistance. He said Ayala has lived at the home for five years with his mother and has three young children and doesn't skip out on court appearances.

Ayala wasn't outright denying the charges Friday, but claims the gun at least isn't real. He says he bought the gun at the Army Navy store in Salem and the barrel is sealed off so it can't be fired as a weapon.

The judge noted Ayala's statement to police that morning, however, contradicts that assertion.

A ballistics report will settle that point, but Sarmini noted Peabody detectives told her they were confident the weapon was capable of being fired.

A $5,000 cash bail was imposed and the case was continued to Feb. 14.


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