It’s been almost nine months since we first met Carlos Zapata, the former Marine whose blistering speech before the Shasta County Board of Supervisors went viral.
On that day, a monstrous star was born. He gained thousands of fans and followers literally overnight.
Nine months since I first wrote about Carlos Zapata the belligerent bully, Carlos Zapata who threatens those who disagree with him, and Carlos Zapata who predicted blood in the streets and bragged of his supportive brotherhood of militia patriots; thousands of them at the ready at his beck and call.
How many screen shots have we published on this site of Zapata’s calls for violence, of this threats, taunts, misogyny, toxic masculinity and evidence of dubious mental stability? Remember the story of how he asked his guys to bring a suspect to Zapata’s Red Bluff restaurant so he could “talk” to him, like something out of a Mafia script, as some of Zapata’s friends discussed various means of “conversation”, such as tar, feathers and a noose?
Remember the story about Zapata’s dramatic outburst at a Palo Cedro restaurant directed toward a woman who ate dinner with her husband as Zapata slammed his hand on their table and irrationally ranted that she’d said bad things about him?
Later he downplayed the incident with an excuse, as if all was well and he had no clue why anyone would be upset with him.
How many people have reported Zapata’s threats to law enforcement, including the F.B.I.? Here at A News Cafe, reporter R.V. Scheide and I have both done exactly that. Many people in this community have also reported Zapata’s threats.
And still, he has admirers, seemingly oblivious to his true nature.
However, not everyone is smitten with Zapata. On Facebook, for example, some knowledgeable folks have have tossed around various arm-chair psychiatric guesses, such as megalomaniacal narcissist, malignant narcissist and sociopath, to name a few.
Tuesday at the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting a slim woman with her hair pulled up under a wide-brimmed hat spoke in a shaky voice during the public-comment period. She described how she’d been threatened and frightened to the point where she wouldn’t disclose her name.
And when Supervisor Les Baugh pressed her for her name, and some members of the audience taunted her, and yelled out requests for her reveal her identity, Supervisor Leonard Moty urged her to resist the crowd’s baiting, and to not tell her name.
There are dozens of North State stories like hers, from people who’ve experienced terrifying encounters with people like Zapata, or friends of Zapata, or from Zapata himself. Originally the source of Zapata and friends’ anger was ostensibly COVID restrictions, but that was a ruse. The goal soon shifted to a desire to “drain the swamp” of anyone other than strict Constitutionalists, and elected leaders who’d vow to ignore state and federal mandates.
The anonymous woman’s words were spoken inside the same chambers supposedly protected by the same pair of Shasta County sheriff deputies who were seen hugging Zapata before last month’s meeting in which Zapata’s followers planned to serve three supervisors with absurd intent-to-recall papers.
These are the same Shasta County board chambers in which one of Zapata’s fellow recall proponents, Vladislav Davidzon, unleashed profanities and personal attacks at board members.
The outburst caused some mothers to leave the room with their children, including, ironically, Recall Shasta leader Elissa McEuen, a recent star in Zapata’s latest Red White and Blueprint docuseries.
And it was during that meeting, after Davidzon spoke, when recall leader McEuen stridently asserted that Recall Shasta did not condone any personal attacks, violence, or threats of violence. The most obvious inference was that she was referring to Davidzon. To make sure, I wrote her later and asked, but what about Carlos, the leader of the Red White and Blueprint project, and a fellow recall supporter? What about his threats? She did not respond.
Moments before Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting began, someone jokingly asked recall proponent “Rally” Sally Rapoza if their “exalted ruler” would be in attendance. “Oh yes,” Rapoza said. “He’ll be here.”
Carlos Zapata is that exalted ruler, and when he finally did arrive (late) to the meeting, he smiled, shook hands and acknowledged his fans, like a rock star entering an auditorium, accompanied by his entourage. It struck me then that he reminded me of a gangster or Mafia boss, surrounded by his yes-men, who sat near him, walked with him, stood when he stood, and left en masse when he left, long before the meeting’s end.
Who could have guessed what fear, humiliation and pain Zapata and his helpers would wreak upon someone later that evening.
Here in Shasta County, the majority of us are peace-loving contented frogs in a pot of what started out as tepid water. We remained quiet and agreeable as the heat was turned up gradually, one threatening story after another threatening story, one insane board meeting after another insane board meeting, to the where we are now: a full rolling boil. Dead in the water.
When did it become our new normal to accept threats as business as usual? What kind of community is this where the same people can consistently make threats and follow through with threats; increasing the rhetoric and turning up the heat, without consequences?
Everything changed Tuesday night.
The Tuesday-night assault
You may remember the name Nathan Blayz. He’s the creator of some parody videos that we recently posted here on A News Cafe. Blayz was gaining a growing following of people on social media who appreciated his short videos in which he impersonated Zapata and mocked Zapata’s Red White and Blueprint project.
I was a fan of Blayz’s work from the start. Since last August A News Cafe has posted numerous stories about Zapata. One reader complained of Carlos fatigue. I could relate. And just when we needed it most, along came Blayz, a breath of fresh air after a year of stale, repetitive, angst-filled stories. So funny. So clever. So spot on. His videos provided much-needed comic relief. Blayz satirized Zapata in a way that was eerily accurate, but hilarious. And Blayz’ adults-only video about Davidzon is one I turn to when I could really use a laugh.
When the going gets tough, society can count on comedians to get us going. Blayz won the day and won us over with his keen observations, intelligence and humor.
Before I saw those first videos, I’d never met Blayz. I knew little about him, other than that his real job is as a chef at a Shasta County restaurant, and that he’s an obviously talented videographer, comedian and satirist.
Here’s a recent example of his work.
Last week Blayz reached out to Zapata, someone he knew, about the Red White and Blueprint videos. Zapata’s responses were peppered with implied threats.
Blayze: “Tell me you at least laughed when you saw my parody RW&B trailer lol …”
Zapata: “I’ll let you know how funny I think it is next time I see you.”
Blayze: “I hope that isn’t a threat. You chose to be in the spotlight. You can’t just threaten or fight everyone who disagrees with you. Fuck off with that bullshit because I’m not scared of you and I’m not going to put up with threats. This text will go right to my lawyer.”
A few minutes passed and Zapata followed up with another comment:
Zapata: “So let me get this straight. You can say whatever you want to me and you think I’m not going to do anything about it? That’s some dumb thinking. I really thought you were smarter than that. I almost regret now defending you to everyone. I’m sure I’ll see you at the restaurant this week. Maybe we can talk then.”
Blayz: “I made a parody video bro, its funny and you should just laugh, plus it only gives you more traffic anyways. Did you think just because we found common ground that I was going to give up my cause? Fuck no, I’m still BLM, I’m still liberal and I still think this recall shit is stupid. You’re making big moves on the internet and I’m countering it.”
Tuesday night, Zapata kept his promise and visited the restaurant where Blayz works, while he was working.
Blayz explained in a Facebook live video what happened. He said Zapata entered the restaurant with a woman who Blayz initially assumed may have been Zapata’s wife.
Blayz said there was a period in the evening when he was at the front of the restaurant and could see Zapata, but Blayz said he made a point to not provoke, acknowledge or engage with Zapata in any way.
“I didn’t say anything to him, didn’t look at him, didn’t wink at him, didn’t fucking gesture to him, didn’t motion to him, didn’t do anything,” Blayz said.
Even so, Blayz said that completely out of nowhere, Zapata threw his full drink at Blayz, which covered him with liquid. Blayz said Zapata then called him a “faggot”, which is when Blayz told Zapata to “get the hell out” of the restaurant.
“You’re done,” Blayz told Zapata. “I don’t care if our beef is personal. You don’t just show up at a restaurant and get to throw your drink across the bar at any employee and not get kicked out. That’s just how it works.”
Blayz said that after that incident with the drink, Zapata returned with a couple. One was a tall woman, the other was a large man with a beard. Blayz said that Zapata came around to the back of the restaurant, following Blayz and a coworker into the restaurant. Blayz said the woman grabbed his shirt, which tore, and tried to yank Blayz outside, but the coworker successfully pulled Blayz back inside.
That’s when the bearded man cracked Blayz on the head above his eye socket with something hard, perhaps a heavy ring.
Blayz said the entire assault was captured on the restaurant’s surveillance cameras.
As Blayz told what happened (in a rattled, albeit expletive-laced Facebook message), he addressed his comments directly to Zapata. Blayz acknowledged that yes, he’d created funny, goofy videos that had made fun of Zapata, something he’d done because Zapata had put himself in the spotlight.
But Blayz said his satire didn’t justify Zapata’s extreme response.
“You cannot just be violent to anybody who disagrees with you,” he said.
Blayz ended his Facebook post by telling Zapata that he planned to press charges.
“And I’m suing because you cannot just attack me at my place of work because we disagree politically,” Blayz said. “That’s not how it works.”
Day of reckoning
On Facebook, many people are offering words of compassion and comfort to Blayz, saying they’ve got his back, and they’d pitch in to cover legal fees if it comes to that, or even help him find a new job if his current employer lets him go over the violent incident in the restaurant.
Consider Zapata’s power and sphere of influence: He’s the head of the Red White and Blueprint project that’s documenting the unfounded recall process of three supervisors who are doing the best they can during difficult times. Zapata has the support of many sheriff deputies and police officers, some of whom he’s trained in jujitsu and other martial arts. He has the admiration and adoration of many frustrated people who are as misguided about Zapata as they are the ridiculous, pointless recall that’s only served to divide our county.
So far, Zapata acts with impunity, and behaves as if he’s untouchable. He boasts that he’s been visited by federal agents with not so much as a citation or fine. He hugs sheriff deputies, which leaves the public with the impression that he’s with them, and they’re with him, and the public is on its own.
The thing is, if Zapata continues on this unchecked rage-slicked trajectory, what’s to stop him from escalating his assaults on anyone else he dislikes? Supervisors? Shasta Forward members? Public health employees? Facebook foes? Reporters? Cartoonists? Photographers?
However, all is not lost. I have high hopes.
I hope that because of Zapata’s Tuesday-night assault upon Blayz, a restraining order is filed against Zapata, which would mean he loses all access to firearms.
I hope when word gets out about what Zapata did, an exodus of rational, ethical people will shun any further association with Zapata and his businesses; smart people not easily hoodwinked by his charm.
I hope the Red White and Blueprint producers and film makers – some of whom describe themselves as Christians – will boot Zapata from the project. And after that, I hope they’ll carry on and complete the series with a new story line: The recall failed, but the community came together to mend fractured relationships.
Most of all, I hope the eyes, minds and hearts of all the gullible, well-meaning people who drank the Zapata Kool-Aid will open in newfound clarity, vision and awareness. Then, I hope good people will stand together and reject Zapata’s threats, bullying, manipulation and intimidation, and with it, the recall and the sham of a Red White and Blueprint project.
If those hopes become realities, if we can collectively survive Carlos Zapata and his clan of like-minded destructive followers, our county may end up stronger and more united than ever. If that happens, we can give Zapata credit for being the catalyst for community recovery, But that’s all he’ll get from us; other than our contempt.