Ghost Guns and Swastikas

Thomas Shefflette parked this truck, which included a Trump flag, at the entrance of East Campus housing. Someone took the flag down and left the sign calling the owner a fascist.

Not much unusual appears on the crime log published by the CSU Monterey Bay Police Department. Between Jan. 13 and March 12 this year, campus police logged upward of 40 investigations, some resulting in citations, some closed due to lack of evidence.

On Feb. 10, though, came an arrest that has left students and faculty alike demanding better transparency – and communication – from school officials. When Monterey County Sheriff’s deputies served a civil eviction notice that day on a former student living in East Campus housing, they found weapons that included a loaded XD Springfield 9mm pistol, a high-capacity magazine and a “ghost gun,” so-called because such weapons lack serial numbers and aren’t traceable, made out of parts ordered on the internet.

That former student, Thomas Shefflette, 36, has been charged with felony counts of possession of weapons on school grounds, possession of a loaded firearm on a college campus, possession of an undetectable firearm and the manufacturing or importation of a high-capacity magazine.

According to a written statement from CSUMB Police Chief Earl Lawson, Shefflette had “a quantity of AR-15 style weapons parts, including parts and tools for the assembly of ghost guns” and “the motivation for possession of the weapons and the material to make ghost gun parts appears to be for financial gain.”

The Sheriff’s Department bomb squad was called out, but found no evidence of bombs or bomb-making material. Lawson noted that while officers saw both a picture of Adolph Hitler and a swastika hanging on a wall in the apartment, “we have found no evidence that the resident holds any affiliations with hate groups.”

Students and faculty are angry they weren’t immediately informed. One university employee commented, “Damn, they send us warning emails about coyotes on campus every other week. You’d think they’d tell us about… an assault-rifle selling white supremacist living on our block,” according to a professor who asked to remain anonymous.

On Feb. 28, as word of that arrest spread, Professor Pamela Motoike sent an email to university President Eduardo Ochoa, noting that “we are left with much anxiety and many questions.”

Ochoa held a virtual town hall with faculty and staff on March 5. While the Zoom event was recorded, the university declined to immediately make a copy available to the Weekly as the general counsel determined if it was subject to the California Public Records Act. A link to the recording was provided the evening of March 16, after the Weekly’s deadline.

As students and faculty have complained about the lack of timely information, Lawson says that per the Clery Act, which governs how campuses across the system send alerts about emergency situations, there was no ongoing threat from Shefflette.

Campus police had only previous minimum contact with him, Lawson says.

Residents say if campus police didn’t realize trouble was brewing with Shefflette, they should have. Last November, according to neighbors, Shefflette parked his truck at the entrance to the housing area and wrote the message “liberal tears for America” on the window. When someone stole the Trump flag attached to the truck and put up a sign reading “This machine supports a Fascist #votehimout,” three new signs appeared on the vehicle: “RX my flag or hell,” “Oppressing a viewpoint real fascism meet here at 6pm Fri” and “We will see who is the real fascist.”

Sol Rivera, a student who lived near Shefflette, says she and other neighbors called campus police.

“There was a lot of tension in the area,” she says. “I called the police because I didn’t want anything to happen. My Resident Assistant called. There were multiple calls to the police about him.”

Shefflette could not be located for comment and his attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. His next hearing is scheduled to take place on March 23.

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(1) comment

Michel Shadowens

Can someone please explain how a 36 year old EX student is living on campus? Multiple calls to campus police since November? Am I missing something?

This does not inspire confidence in my student's safety.

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