Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies have arrested a Sonoma Valley 16-year-old suspected of firing off a flare gun loaded with bullets in a public park and keeping a stash of guns in his home.
The teenager, who the Sheriff’s Office did not identify, was taken into custody on Friday night one block north of Maxwell Farms Regional Park, on the outskirts of Sonoma.
He was stopped by a sheriff’s deputy just before midnight near Arbor Avenue and School Street after a resident placed a 911 call to report hearing a gunshot and then seeing a man with a gun walk out of Maxwell Park.
Deputies who detained the teen found him carrying a modified flare gun loaded with one .22 caliber round and four unfired .22 caliber rounds in his pockets, according to the Sheriff’s Office, which reported the arrest Tuesday. In addition, authorities said, a .22 caliber shell casing was found near a walking path in Maxwell Park, indicating the boy fired the weapon.
The teen told deputies that he thought of himself as an amateur gunsmith and boasted that he made his own guns, according to the Sheriff’s Office. He said he had become paranoid from smoking a lot of marijuana lately, that he was affiliated with a norteño gang and felt he needed to be armed for protection against rival sureño gang members, the Sheriff’s Office reported.
Acting on additional information the teen shared, deputies later obtained a warrant and searched his home, where they found what they described as a “cache of weapons,” including several homemade guns that were in various stages of construction, pellet guns that were modified to shoot .22 caliber bullets, two air soft handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition for shotguns, rifles and other weapons.
At the time of his arrest, deputies said the teen laughed about his gunsmith activity and repeatedly claimed he had become popular with friends because of it.
The teen “did not seem to grasp the severity of what he was being charged with, said Sgt. Cecile Focha, the Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.
Before the search, the boy reportedly volunteered to show deputies videos of himself on his cellphone in which he was shooting various firearms, makeshift pistols and other guns in what appeared to be the backyard of a home. In one video, he was seen shooting a gun into the air in front of a residence, Focha said.
The teen claimed that he had sought to reduce his weapons stockpile by selling several guns to people he met on the street, Focha said. He told investigators he didn’t care if anyone was killed with them, she said.
The boy was booked into Sonoma County Juvenile Hall on suspicion of carrying a concealed weapon and numerous other firearm charges. Sheriff’s officials would not say Tuesday if he remained in custody.
The Sheriff’s Office said they did not know if the teen’s family knew about his guns. Officials said there was no indication he was a known gang member. They did not disclose if he had a previous record.
You can reach Staff Writer Elizabeth M. Cosin at 521-5276 or elizabeth.cosin@press democrat.com.