On Friday, Nov. 15, at 3:40 p.m., Sonoma County Sheriff's deputies responded to a call from a Westminster Wood employees who said a group of people wearing robes and masks had blocked both entrances to the camp with vehicles, preventing anyone from leaving. One person was reported to have a gun.
When deputies arrived, they first detained one unarmed man, claiming to be a reporter. They then found and detained three people wearing robes and Guy Fawkes masks. Deputies said the suspects did not follow basic orders and began yelling when they were placed in handcuffs. Deputies found and detained a fourth suspect wearing the same style robe and mask and detained him as well.
According to a Sheriff’s Office Nixle report, “The suspects were continuously verbally and physically uncooperative. They were all wearing black hooded robes, black gloves, black silicone shoe covers and Anonymous-style masks. Two were carrying walkie-talkie radios, one was wearing a body-camera and one was carrying pepper spray.”
Based on flyers and a written plan found at the scene, deputies determined this incident was a protest against one of the groups attending the camp, a Berkeley-based organization called the Center for Applied Rationality, a group that, according to the New York Times, has recently found favor among Silicon Valley tech workers, enamored with their curriculum on rational thinking and cognitive bias.
While some deputies detained the suspects, other deputies and SWAT team members spread out into the camp to find the guests and workers. Henry 1 assisted from the air. California Highway Patrol officers assisted with the search, closing Bohemian Highway from Occidental to Monte Rio for several hours.
Deputies found 50 people, including children, throughout the camp and began evacuating them. In total, approximately 50 people were evacuated from the property and taken to the Occidental Fire Department.
SWAT systematically searched the property but did not find the reported person with a gun. The bomb squad searched the group’s vehicles — a small bus, a box truck and a Toyota Prius — for explosives and determined they were safe. All the vehicles were towed.
The five people detained were interviewed at the Sheriff’s Office. The four suspects dressed in robes continued to be uncooperative and would not identify themselves. Detectives determined the fifth person, who had originally claimed to be a reporter, did not commit any crimes; he was released.
After the interviews, four people were arrested. They continued to refuse to identify themselves and refused to answer questions. The suspects were later identified through fingerprints as Jack Lasota, 28, Berkeley; Gwen Danielson, 25, transient; Emma Borhanian, 28, Albany; and Alexander Leatham, 24, unknown residence.
All four were arrested for felony child endangerment, felony false imprisonment, felony conspiracy, misdemeanor resisting arrest, wearing a mask while committing a crime and trespassing.
As of Tuesday morning, Lasota, Danielson, and Leatham were in custody at the Sonoma County jail on $50,000 bail. Borhanian was released on Saturday, Nov. 16, on $50,000 bail.
The group has steadfastly refused to talk about their intentions.
“They were yelling when we tried interviewing them, and they were not answering questions. They told us nothing helpful during the investigations that would help us get at their intentions,” Sheriff’s Department public information officer Sgt. Juan Valencia said. “They are still not talking.”
In its Nixle report, the Sheriff’s Office said it “supports people exercising their rights to peacefully protest. These protestors were not peaceful, were arrested for multiple crimes and caused fear and anxiety amongst the children and adults at the camp. We sincerely appreciate the camp staff being alert and calling the Sheriff’s Office right away. This allowed us to respond early in the incident, before things escalated.”
EDITOR’ NOTE: All people named are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.