A San Jose civilian community service officer, who briefly served as a sworn police officer, was arrested on suspicion of gun crimes this week after a FBI investigation linked him to social media posts advocating for killing cops and other hate speech on an alt-right website.
The 40-year-old Gilroy man is facing misdemeanor charges for possession of a concealed firearm, possession of an assault weapon and possession of a concealed dirk or dagger; as well as a charge for storing a loaded handgun in his locker at the South San Jose substation of the Police Department, where he works at the community service officer program.
The gun crimes only came to light after the FBI San Francisco Bay Area division’s Joint Terrorism Task Force informed San Jose police about the officer’s links to potentially threatening comments made on gab.com on May 24. The FBI was able to trace posts back to the officer’s IP address, police said.
Police did not specify what the posts said except to say they were “of political nature involving violence and threats.”
The FBI informed SJPD on Oct. 14 and by that evening, officers had arrested the suspect while he was on duty at PayPal Park.
San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata said at a news conference Friday:
“The same day that we were made aware of these posts, the San Jose Police Department took immediate action to protect the community, and our employees.”
Officers obtained a search warrant for his residence, where they found nine firearms, one of which was an illegally modified AR-15-style rifle, Mata said.
The police chief said SJPD also took his electronics and other evidence to investigate any hate speech or threats he may have made.
“These allegations are extremely serious and are being fully investigated to determine the extent of any criminal conduct by our employee, and the extent to which any others may be involved.”
The suspect was arraigned Tuesday and is currently out of custody.
As a community service officer, he does not have “police powers” and is not allowed to be armed while on duty. At this time, he has been placed on a paid administrative leave pending results of the investigation by SJPD and the FBI, who are working in conjunction.
Mata said there has not been any indication so far that the officer was going to act on threats of violence or that there are other officers involved, though that may change as authorities continue to investigate.
The chief said:
“We haven’t dealt with this in years past, and now there’s a growing presence of extremism in our country. … So, we’re keeping up with the technology. A lot of these individuals post anonymously, so these are complex investigations.”
In 2020, some SJPD officers were linked to a private Facebook group filled with racist and bigoted comments, which drew intense public scrutiny.
Mata said his department has since implemented a myriad of measures to screen for hateful or extreme ideologies within the department, like social media screenings for potential officers and a psychological exam.
“I am extremely disappointed that an employee in our organization may have harbored and may have spread these hateful messages. I strongly condemn extremist ideologies and hate, which have no place in this community and will not be tolerated at this department.”
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