The FBI contacted the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office on Monday to issue an alert about the potential threat of people targeting state Capitol buildings throughout the country.
“They (FBI) just made us aware of that intel they had,” says Fresno County Sheriff’s spokesperson Tony Botti to GV Wire℠. “We’re just going to continue to monitor. We don’t have any direct threats here locally.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office put out a statement Wednesday about the domestic threat potential.
“The Governor, Assembly and Senate are working together in close cooperation to ensure the safety of everyone who works in or visits the Capitol. While we cannot address specific security steps, we are in constant communication with the CHP, Senate and Assembly Sergeants, and local law enforcement to keep the people’s house safe,” the office said.
The protections come as the FBI issued a bulletin warning of plans for armed protests ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
“We’ve got one of our deputies who’s assigned to … the joint terrorism task force. Basically, what that means is that he’s looped in to share information with local, state, and federal agencies.” – Fresno County Sheriff’s spokesperson Tony Botti
NBC Bay Area reports the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday said it is assembling a special task force to “investigate any right-wing terrorists or terrorist groups that have any intention of harming public officials, destroying government facilities or putting our community at risk.”
Botti says Sheriff Margaret Mims is not creating a special task force, but that doesn’t mean deputies aren’t prepared, especially since there are known hate groups in the county.
Part of the Sacramento Regional Threat Assessment Center
Botti says that since the 9/11 terrorist attacks most agencies have worked to communicate better and share information.
“We’ve got one of our deputies who’s assigned to … the joint terrorism task force,” says Botti. “Basically, what that means is that he’s looped in to share information with local, state, and federal agencies.”
Botti says his department is more specifically part of the California State Threat Assessment System, a branch of the California State Office of Emergency Services.
“The STAS is designed to detect, deter, and prevent homeland security threats to the citizens and critical infrastructure of California,” according to the entity’s website.
“It’s just another piece of the puzzle of all of us sharing information,” says Botti. “Whether it be broadcast statewide or nationwide, of any trends or threats that we see that we should be aware of.”
Mobile Field Force Team
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office maintains a Mobile Field Force Team that specializes in crowd and riot control.
“If they need to be deployed, whether locally or through mutual aid, get a request to go somewhere else in the state, we could definitely do that,” Botti says.
GV Wire℠ asked Botti if any requests for help have come from the state Capitol. “Not at this time,” he responded.
He says the mobile field force recently conducted training with other agencies so they can be better prepared and coordinated should the need arise anywhere in the state.
In June, 20 deputies assigned to the team were sent to San Francisco. Deputies focused on enforcing a curfew and preventing looting following large-scale protests.
Fresno County Area Hate Groups
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists, lists at least two such groups in Fresno County.
SPLC says the “Proud Boys” and “Golden State Skinheads” both operate locally.
The Proud Boys and its leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric, according to the SPLC.
GSS came under intense scrutiny after it led a march on California’s state Capitol grounds in Sacramento in June 2017. The SPLC reports the event that day devolved into a roaming riot during which a number of people were stabbed and dozens injured when GSS and its supporters fought with a much larger contingent of counter-protesters.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)