Imagine a place where a lieutenant employed by the county sheriff’s department owns a gun shop, promoted by a Facebook page filled with extreme right-wing content, that sells, not only guns, but also gear representing the State of Jefferson secessionist movement and the Proud Boys. Imagine a place where a sheriff’s deputy has posted racist content on social media and gone unchecked. Imagine a place where a police officer manages a ranch he rents out as a venue for an event organized by right-wing extremist group that dabbles in the rhetoric of white nationalism while playing a leading role in a movement to recall three Republican county board of supervisor members and replace them with far-right politicians. Imagine a place where a member of said movement participates in a violent assault on a local African American comedian outspokenly against the recall effort, later referring to him in a racist manner as a monkey, but is essentially made to look innocent in a public statement filled with falsities authored by a police sergeant.
Despite the plethora of truly kind and loving people who live in the region, that place is Shasta County, where law enforcement officials partake in highly questionable actions, and in some cases, fireable offenses that should be reported to the California Department of Justice and the state’s Attorney General.
Lieutenant Tyler Thompson & Redding Guns LLC
Nestled across town from Jones’ Fort, the family-owned gun shop managed by Patrick Jones, District 4 Shasta County Supervisor and recall supporter, is Redding Guns LLC, located on the corner of Shasta and East streets in downtown Redding.
Redding Guns is owned by Tyler Thompson, a lieutenant in the Shasta County Sherriff’s Department based at the Redding Station. In 2019, Thompson earned a salary of more than $114,00, not including benefits.
Jones and Thompson both contribute to the fact that the region is home to the highest number of gun sales annually among all counties in California, and contains 12 times more concealed weapons permits than Los Angeles County in recent years. Both Jones and Thompson also allow for the collection of recall-petition signatures at their respective establishments.
Even while Jones has proven he holds extreme political views, the Jones’ Fort Facebook pages are tame compared to that of Redding Guns.
While content posted on the Redding Gun’s Facebook page used to focus on guns and other merchandise for sale, the site is now littered with homophobic, sexist and toxically masculine posts. One recently shared meme includes a photograph of a guy sucking milk from a cup with a hot dog that has a hole drilled through it and reads, “HOW GUYS THAT SUPPORT GUN CONTROL DRINK MILK.” The meme conveys a clear homophobic toxically hyper-masculine message that men who support gun control are not only not tough and “manly,” but also might be gay – content that fits right in with the Woody Clendenens of the world who joke that if you do not identify as Republican. you might be gay.
Along these same lines, a meme shared in December of 2019 stated, “With this country divided I am glad I am on the side that has the most guns and knows what bathroom to use.” It received more than 400 “likes,” hearts, and smiley faces, and was shared by nearly 350 individuals. Redding Guns has a national following. The North State is nonexistent in many representations of California in popular culture, but it is increasingly viewed as an epicenter of extremist right-wing religious and political activism in some circles across the country.
“America, Before All the Sissies Took Over”
Another piece of content shared on the Redding Guns’ Facebook page features a photograph of a young boy with what looks to be a pellet gun as he sits on a Big Wheel in a midcentury suburban neighborhood. The meme reads, “America, before all the sissies took over.” The post, shared in June of 2019, was re-shared 48,000 times and attracted more than 1300 “likes,” smiley faces, and hearts, and more than 260 comments.
One commenter bragged about how he used to play “war” with his friends, and how, “we ruled our neighborhood like an underage mafia” and how this was superior to being “buried in video games” like kids today. Another explained that he, too, grew up playing “army” and “cowboys and Indians.”
“Never had a BB gun,” exclaimed another commenter, because his dad was adamant about the fact that if he was going to have a gun he had to “have a real one.” His first gun was a Ruger 10/22.
A Navy veteran from New Mexico shared a picture of his two grandsons holding weapons under the “America, before the sissies” image and stated, “my son is still raising my grandsons in the traditional Americana [sic]!” and “our house has raised American patriots since 1623!”
The Navy veteran recently shared a meme on his Facebook page which state that “the Democrat socialist party’s anti-police and race-bating CRT rhetoric can be directly tied to a 91% increase in ambush attacks upon the police.” A current fictional Fox News favorite. His Facebook page was filled with content expressing false conspiracy theory-laced right-wing talking points, including the idea that the January 6th insurrection in Washington D.C. was led by socialists and communists rather than Trump supporters and that President Biden’s election was illegitimate.
Another commenter under the “America, before the sissies took over,” a man from Kentucky, posted an image of a man carrying a woman and child out of a flooded area which read, “Toxic masculinity, because when shit hits the fan, no one looks for a feminist.”
White men account for a vast majority of people who post comments under content shared on the Redding Guns’ Facebook, and a significant number of them identify towns and cities across the American South as their home.
“Sorry to See You Using This Moron as a Prop”
Another image shared on the Redding Guns Facebook page in July of 2020 featured a mock cover of Time magazine that named Mark McCloskey as a fictitious “Person of the Year.” McCloskey was the white-suburban resident in St Louis, Missouri, convicted of misdemeanor offenses for pointing a rifle at Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters who were peacefully marching through his neighborhood.
The mock Time cover, which included a the actual photograph of McCloskey bearing his weapon as BLM activists walked by his house, claimed the situation taught society, “How Democrats proved Americans need 30 round magazines”.
Marks’s wife Patricia was charged with the same crime as she, too, pointed a handgun at the peaceful protesters, and the couple became right-wing celebrities leading into the 2020 Presidential election race. Both spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention, hitting on a wide range of right-wing talking points, including the racially-coded and incredibly false idea that Democrats wanted to “abolish the suburbs” by opening them to low income housing and dangerous “city people.”
While the post garnered nearly 200 “likes” and hearts, one commenter from Dunsmuir stated that he was “sorry to see” Redding Guns “using this moron as a prop” and that “you do your self [sic] and all gun owners a disservice by promoting this type of idiocy.”
Redding Guns, “Blue Lives,” & BLM Protests
Another meme shared on the Redding Guns Facebook page featured a photograph of a man who appeared to be bored, wearing a giant red “Make American Great Again” cap and holding a gun. It read, “When you live in a rural area with no riots,” thereby making a dangerous statement that protests against racism and other forms of oppression should be met with rifles, and that it is disappointing if one does not have the opportunity to bear arms against protesters. The image garnered more than 380 “likes,” smiley faces, and hearts, and was shared by more than 300 individuals.
The “when you live in a rural area with no riots” meme was posted just a few days after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, and right after one of the first BLM protests in Redding, which was met by a large number of white men who showed up to act as counter-protesters. The latter group, who referred to themselves as “patriots,” was comprised of militia members and individuals waving Trump flags. Some wore fighting gloves, bullet proof vests and other military gear.
Some men were also reportedly carrying concealed weapons. Local law enforcement officials on the scene warmly greeted the so-called patriots.
In addition to videos of Lieutenant Thompson firing off weapons at a gun range, the Redding Guns Facebook page is littered with right-wing products. One example of this is a pistol-cleaning mat that features an artistic rendering of President Trump standing in the back of a yellow militaristic truck decorated with Trump banners, guns and American flags. The vehicle is barreling down a beach beside a bald eagle firing an automatic weapon with its talons. It is the ideal décor for your right-wing Shasta County man cave, survival shelter, or militia headquarters.
The Redding Guns Facebook page also features scores of pictures of guns the business is selling, displayed upon a mat with a Blue Lives Matter flag printed on it, as well as stickers of the establishment’s logo, an American flag with the Gadsden flag snake holding a rifle.
Redding Guns also sells State of Jefferson (SOJ) movement hats, stickers and flags, something that is highly disturbing seeing as how the SOJ movement is a radical secessionist movement whose leaders have expressed a wide variety of racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant and generally xenophobic sentiments.
The establishment has also photographed guns for sale with the SOJ sticker behind them.
Needless to say, is troublesome that a gun shop owned by a law enforcement official sells SOJ gear. A look closer at the SOJ hats for sale, however, illuminates an even more dangerous fact: Two of the SOJ hats for sale are not green and yellow, the colors of the SOJ movement, but black and yellow, the colors favored by the Proud Boys, a United States far-right neo-fascist male organization that promotes violence.
There is a well known and documented overlap between the SOJ movement and the Proud Boys in Northern California.
What other reason would Redding Guns have black and yellow SOJ hats, then to cater to the local Proud Boys market? Why do they not carry any other color variations?
Thompson’s ownership of a gun shop is not breaking any laws. However, while law enforcement officials across the country have been fired and placed on leave for posting similar kinds of content on social media as that shared by Redding Guns, and for moonlighting with far-right terrorist organizations, Thompson has the luxury of hiding behind a business.
One thing is for certain: The ownership of the gun shop, the content on its Facebook page, and the fact that it sells SOJ and Proud Boys merchandise should make one question whether or not the community can rest at ease with Thompson working as a lieutenant sheriff in Shasta County.
The Tale of Sheriff Deputy Greg Walker
While Tyler Thompson slings guns and gear for extremist movements at his shop in downtown Redding, just a few miles down Highway 273 from where Thompson is employed as a lieutenant at the Redding headquarters for the Shasta County Sherriff’s Department, his colleague, Shasta County Sheriff’s deputy Greg Walker, slings racist hate on social media.
Deputy Walker works in the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department Civil Unit, and while he reportedly still drives a squad car, most of his days are spent behind a desk. Between 2012 and 2019, Walker’s annual pay, not including benefits, increased from more than $72,000 to nearly $84,000.
Walker’s Facebook page presents a serious collection of red flags. Evidence used to verify the authenticity of his Facebook page includes public conversations with friends to whom his profile is linked, and the connection between his and his wife’s page. He is friends with Cottonwood militia member and right-wing pro-recall activist Woody Clendenen and Carlos Zapata on Facebook, the latter of whom has “liked” some of his posts on the social media platform.
Let’s start with what he likes. Walker “likes” eight things at the bottom of his Facebook page, one of which is the Red White and Blueprint media company. Just above this, he lists two books that he “likes” – “The Turner Diaries” and “The Anarchist Cookbook”. The former is a 1978 novel that depicts a violent revolution in the United States which leads to the overthrow of the federal government, as well as a race war that leads to the extermination of non-white people. The book’s author, William Luther Pierce III, was an American neo-Nazi, a white supremacist, and a high-profile member of the white nationalist movement before his death in 2002. Several white supremacist terrorist attacks, including the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995 by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, are linked to “The Turner Diaries”.
“The Anarchist Cookbook” was written by William Powell and published in 1971. It contains instructions for the manufacturing of explosives, weapons and illicit drugs, such as LSD, and directions for how to hack telecommunications systems. Similar to “The Turner Diaries”, it is linked to several domestic terrorist events. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the perpetrators of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, had possession of the “The Anarchist Cookbook”.
It is hard to tell if Walker’s liking of these books is a joke, or if he is serious, but one thing is for certain, it is not appropriate conduct for a law enforcement official.
“IF WE DON’T FIGHT NOW THERE IS NO POINT IN EVER VOTING AGAIN”
Walker also appears to be a supporter of President Trump, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. One image he shared on Facebook included a drawing of a military figure from the late 18th century, presumable an American “patriot,” in front of the U.S. Capitol which read, “IF WE DON’T FIGHT NOW THERE IS NO POINT IN EVER VOTING AGAIN.” The image was posted one month before President Biden’s inauguration, and just days before the insurrection in Washington D.C., and at a time when President Trump and his supporters were fiercely challenging the election results.
On the same day as the fight-now meme, Walker posted a picture of a smoking bullet with the words, “FREEDOM HAS A NICE RING TO IT,” and, “A BIT OF A RECOIL.” In August of 2020, as BLM protests took place across the country following the death of George Floyd, he posted a skull covered in the United States flag which asked, “WHEN DO WE MOUNT UP AND FIGHT FOR OUR COUNTRY?”
“I think we need to get a group and go to Portland,” claimed one Walker friend, who continued by expressing, “I have a couple of ideas.”
“I’m ready,” responded another, before Walker chimed in to write, “Sounds intriguing.” It is obvious that the three were indirectly referring to travelling to Portland to wage an assault on BLM protesters. Although he did not engage in the conversation, Carlos Zapata “liked” the post.
“Straight, White, and Proud”
While the examples above paint a picture of Walker as a possible threat to the safety of Shasta County residents, an additional piece of content he posted on Facebook is even more egregious: A meme of a silhouette of four white bodies – depicting a family – in front of the Confederate Flag with the phrase “straight, white, and proud.”
There is nothing wrong with being proud to be who you are, but the expression of “white pride” by a white person, just like the saying “all lives matter,” is a racist backlash to push for racial equality by marginalized communities of color and their allies. A saying like “black pride” is a response to racialized oppression in the past and present. “White pride” — a saying directly tied to white supremacist groups — comes from a place of anger, hate and ignorance, because white Americans have never faced the kinds of racialized oppression that people of color have. Why would anyone, let alone a law enforcement official, think it was acceptable to embrace a phrase also expressed by members of terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan?
In recent years, law enforcement officials across the country have been fired or placed on leave for sharing the kinds of racist and right-wing extremist context Walker has posted on social media platforms like Facebook. While reforms in the criminal justice system targeting systemic racism and unconscious biases influencing police behavior are important, explicit racism, like that expressed by Walker, is just as dangerous.
A Ranch, a Right-Wing Activist, & Her Police Officer Son
On July 2, the RW&B media company hosted an event at the Gover Ranch Wedding and Event Center in Anderson. The ranch is located outside of town near the Sacramento River where Jelly’s Ferry Road turns into Gover Road, and it is just a short distance from the Coleman Fish Hatchery. The fundraising event was the second of its kind for RW&B, following one in April at Harmon Ranch in Palo Cedro that featured guest speaker and conservative activist David Harris Jr., and local country musician Chad Bushnell.
The July event at Gover Ranch, like the previous Palo Cedro fundraiser, featured dinner, drinks, a musical performance by Bushnell, as well as a live question-and-answer session with members of Recall Shasta, another group involved in the recall effort, and county supervisor and recall supporter Patrick Jones. Tickets for the event cost $100 per person and could be purchased at, among other places, Woody Clendenen’s barbershop in Cottonwood.
Redding Police officer Devin Ketel is the key principle for Gover Ranch. Revenue for the Ketel-owned company that runs the ranch, is more than $65,000 per year. As a police officer in Redding, he makes 90,000 per year, not including benefits.
Ketel is also the son of Kathryn Stainbrook, a vocal member of the recall movement who was reportedly slapped by a gay man named Bradley Hart in June while collecting signatures at the Old Shasta Post Office in Shasta. Hart was arrested within a few hours and spent the night in jail.
In contrast, Christopher Meagher was caught on a security camera violently attacking local comedian Nathan Pinkney inside the back door of Pinkney’s place of employment, where Meagher, Zapata and Meagher’s girlfriend Elizabeth Bailey cornered Pinkney. However, although the surveillance video clearly showed that Meagher and Bailey assaulted Pinkney, Meagher was not arrested for more than 50 days.
A few days after Stainbrook was slapped, she spoke at a Shasta County Board of Supervisor meeting in an Oscar-worthy performance. As she seemed to struggle to hold back tears (which seemed inauthentic), Stainbrook claimed, regarding gay people, “These are the people that you gave an entire month to … You devoted all of June to honoring them and that is what has come,” she said, before continuing, “You would think that they would be happy.”
Stainbrook was referring to the fact that the Shasta County Board of Supervisors recently designated, in a 3-2 vote, June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month. The two votes against designating the month as such were submitted by supervisors Patrick Jones and Les Baugh, the two members who support the recall of their colleagues. In Stainbrook’s narrow-minded thinking, giving an entire month to “those people,” or in other words, the LGBTQ+ community in Shasta County, effectively ended LGBTQ+ oppression, and the community and its allies should be grateful. She was also implying that the attack on her was not only the fault of the entire LGBTQ+ community, but also the supervisors who supported the designation of June as Pride Month.
More details on the reported assault on Stainbrook is likely to surface in the near future, but her homophonic beliefs and playing of the victim card are well-documented, which includes not only her comments at the board of supervisor meeting, but also content she has shared on Facebook.
In July of 2020, Stainbrook shared a right-wing rant making the rounds on Facebook which essentially painted so-called patriotic straight white Christians who stand for the National Anthem and kneel for the cross, and folks, who among other things, want to save our history by keeping up the Confederate monuments and force people to use the bathroom of their birth sex as the real victims in society.
Stephanie Walker, Greg Walker’s wife, shared a shorter version of the same rant just over a week after Stainbrook.
The more we study right-wing extremism in Shasta County, the more we find that its survival is predicated on a cabal of likeminded people. Ketel’s rental of Gover Ranch to the RW&B group for their event did not break any laws, but this, along with the conduct of his mother, makes one wonder if his political beliefs and affiliations impacts his conduct as a Redding police officer.
Revisiting the Carlos Zapata, Christopher Meagher, and Elizabeth Bailey assault on Nathan Pinkney
After threatening to confront African-American comedian Nathan Pinkney at his place of employment for the videos he had posted online mocking the recall movement and the Red, White, and Blueprint media company behind it, the co-owner of said company, Carlos Zapata and his wife Rebecca showed up to the Market Street Blade & Barrel restaurant and bar in Redding.
In the middle of their stay, and while sitting at the bar, Zapata threw his drink at Pinkney. The glass shattered and liquid spilled on Pinkney. Zapata was then asked to leave, and he complied.
Later in the evening, as Pinkney stepped out the back door of the establishment in a parking lot near the back of the Cascade Theater, Zapata returned with his friends Christopher Meagher and Elizabeth Bailey.
Zapata initially led the threesome toward Pinkney, walking rapidly. The group then proceeded to form a half circle around Pinkney as he backed up, and as one of his coworkers entered the scene.
The entire event was caught on security camera footage.
As Pinkney backed into the back door of the Blade and Barrel, Elizabeth Bailey, Meagher’s girlfriend and a former employee at Zapata’s Palomino Room bar and restaurant in Red Bluff, grabbed him and ripped his shirt. Pinkney was able to shake himself loose, however, as he entered the building, backing in behind his coworker, Meagher lunged through the door and punched him so hard that it left a cut above his eye. Pinkney’s coworker tried to defend him and as they both backed up, Meagher picked up a larger metal canister as if he was going to throw it. Meagher relented from throwing the canister, backed out of the building, grabbed his testicles, then threw his arms up in the air as if to call Pinkney out of the building.
Zapata, Meagher, and Bailey then left the premises.
Later, on social media, Zapata referred to Pinkney as a monkey, and it was reported that during the assault upon Pinkney that racial epithets were also directed at Pinkney. The assault report convinced a judge to grant Pinkney a temporary restraining order on Zapata, which is still in effect.
To varying degrees, Zapata, Meagher and Bailey all assaulted Pinkney that evening.
After nearly two weeks the Redding Police Department finally issued a press release regarding the attack on Pinkney. It was written by Sergeant Bob Garnero and reviewed by Captain Poletski, and it was filled with glaring falsities that may have placed Pinkney’s life in further danger by those who believed the report and sided with Zapata.
Furthermore, RPD’s report claimed that Zapata and Pinkney partook in a verbal argument before Zapata threw his glass. Not true. RPD’s report also claimed that Pinkney and his co-worker followed Zapata and his wife to another downtown establishment and became involved in a second verbal argument. Not true.
The report then stated, “Zapata was joined by two acquaintances [Meagher and Bailey] who were customers at the location,” and that the argument between the group “eventually carried on into a parking lot in downtown Redding.” Again, this is not the truth as the security video footage illustrated that Pinkney was attacked just outside the back door of his place of employment, not at a different downtown business or some random parking lot.
Zapata, Meagher and Bailey approached the backside of the Blade & Barrel by walking south down Market-Pine Alley from the direction of Placer Street. There are no other bars or restaurants near the Blade & Barrel’s back door, which supports the fact that the threesome specifically walked to the establishment with intent to attack Pinkney.
The fact that Pinkney and Zapata have both stated that Pinkney was calling Zapata corroborates the fact that Zapata returned to the Blade & Barrel to settle his differences with Pinkney. On social media Zapata has started to use the fact that Pinkney called him as the reason for the assault, but it is obviously not legal to seek out and violently attack someone just because they called or texted.
The press release also stated that “following the assault, Pinkney went back into the business he was working at and armed himself with a handgun” and that his co-workers “were able to disarm Pinkney and calm him down.” Pinkney admitted to the storing of a legally registered handgun at the restaurant, but the comments in the press release regarding his retrieval of his firearm are uncorroborated.
So why has the Redding Police Department still not charged Zapata, Meagher and Bailey for their assault against Pinkney, when RPD had in its possessive the restaurant’s surveillance video that provided undeniable evidence? During this time, Meagher and Bailey were left free to violently assault an elderly man outside a Redding bar in June.
RPD arrested Meagher for the attack upon the elderly man, which was also captured on security video. Meagher was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, with force and possible great bodily injury, and for injuring an elder/dependent adult. (He was jailed, but ultimately posted bail and has been released.)
With days of the attack upon the elderly man, Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett ultimately filed charges against Meagher and Bailey for the alleged assault against the elderly man, as well as charges against Bailey, Meagher and Zapata for their alleged assault upon the May 4 assault upon Pinkney.
So many questions, and the answers may point to an interconnected web of friendships.
Zapata is close friends with law enforcement officials in Shasta County because he has trained some in jiu-jitsu. Zapata is also friends on Facebook with Scott Odell, the owner of the Blade & Barrel, whom Zapata reportedly called immediately after the event to share his side of the story – which was likely skewed in Zapata’s favor. Odell fired Pinkney shortly after the assault.
One of Odell’s sons is the manger of Blade & Barrel, and the other, Bailey Odell, is a Redding Police officer.
Could it be that Zapata, Meagher and Bailey’s relationships with not only Odell, but also law enforcement officials in Shasta County, contributed to the falsities in the press release issued by the Redding Police Department nearly two weeks after Pinkney was assaulted? Furthermore, why did the man who allegedly slapped Kathryn Stainbrook get arrested within a few hours of the attack and spend the night in jail, yet it took the Shasta County District Attorney more than 50 days to charge Pinkney’s attackers, who are now charged with more serious crimes than the man who assaulted Stainbrook?
A few days after Pinkney’s assault, Breanna Ketel, Officer Devin Ketel’s wife, shared a link to the story as covered by a local news agency on her Facebook page. The picture that accompanied the article was that of the cut above Pinkney’s eye caused by the blow to his head by Meagher’s fist.
“Good grief,” replied Stainbrook, her mother-in-law.
Another comment in response to Breanna’s post was written by none other than Shasta County Sheriff’s Deputy Walker himself: “Truly embarrassing how the media and certain supervisors are picking this story up when there is so much more relevant stuff going on in our country!”
Questionable conduct among law enforcement officials abounds in Shasta County: from a lieutenant in the sheriff’s department who owns a gun shop that sells merchandise representing far-right movements like the SOJ and the Proud Boys that is advertised by a Facebook page which displays extremist content; to a deputy who posts outright racist material while purporting to like terrorist literature; to ties between law enforcement officials, right-wing extremist movements, and event venues; to the police botching of a press release and the favoring of white individuals who have connections with law enforcement officials over an African-American who does not.
Questionable conduct demands indisputable answers.