SAN JOSE — A 21-year-old Monterey County man has been charged with multiple gun crimes, but not for actually making the shooting threats to Westfield Valley Fair that authorities say prompted his arrest on the South Bay mall’s grounds earlier this week.
Hunter Tital was charged Friday with four felony gun crimes encompassing him reportedly having a concealed loaded handgun in his satchel when he was arrested Wednesday afternoon, and an AR-15-style rifle recovered from his car. But his primary arresting offense, making criminal threats, was not filed.
A San Jose police report details threatening statements that investigators say Tital made on the social-media platform Snapchat, which combined with his posting a video of a rifle in a duffel bag and his communication with another Snapchat user, appears to have spurred a police response that made its way to Santa Cruz County authorities and eventually to South Bay authorities.
But a lack of specificity in the shooting remarks also appears to have prevented prosecutors from filing a criminal-threats charge.
“The law makes it pretty clear in order for us to charge that crime specifically, we have to establish a criminal threat directed to a particular person, and that the person was in sustained fear,” said Deputy District Attorney Daniel Chung, adding that the situation reflects a legal gap “the Legislature needs to look at.”
Tital, a Seaside resident, was arraigned Friday in a San Jose courtroom and the absence of a threat charge spurred a brief but heated discussion over whether Tital should be remanded to jail without bail — he was originally booked on $200,000 bail — or be afforded monitored release.
Deputy Public Defender Jessica Burt-Smith noted to Judge Vincent Chiarello that on the weapons crimes alone, Tital was eligible for release on $0 bail in accordance with emergency court policies designed to prevent jail crowding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chung requested that Tital be held without bail, and asked Chiarello to exercise his discretion to make a public-safety exception given the nature of the threats tied to Tital, and the recovery of loaded firearms both on him and in his vehicle. Burt-Smith argued such a move would be disregarding Tital’s absence of any violent criminal history and would be largely based on alleged crimes that weren’t even charged.
Chiarello ultimately decided to remand Tital to jail without bail, siding with Chung and concluding Tital “is obviously a bigger threat of bodily harm to the public than is stated.”
The judge recited parts of the police report, including some of the Snapchat posts linked to Tital. The report contends that Tital first attracted suspicion Wednesday because of posts that read, “I swear I’m literally seconds from snapping and going on a mass homicide,” and “Im literally f***ing hanging by a thread from shooting everyone I see.”
He also posted a video of an AR-15 rifle inside a duffel bag, and of a hand pulling out a box of .300 Blackout ammo, with the caption, “If you see this bag RUN! I’m done with humans there nothing but f***ing diseases and diseases need to be killed!”
Another message in the sequence read, “‘Im thinking its Santa Clara mall day. Or Santa Cruz bmx day? Or both.”
After his arrest, Tital told investigators he was tired of cyberbullying, and that he mistakenly posted the rifle photo to his public-facing Snapchat story instead of directly to another user, according to the police report. Later, when he and his girlfriend went to Valley Fair, he told a Snapchat user he was at the mall.
At some point, the Snapchat posts and video were passed on to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, which pinged Tital’s phone and determined he was at Valley Fair. They alerted SJPD and Santa Clara police, who spotted Tital, then closed in and arrested him at gunpoint. Tital’s girlfriend also was detained.
Tital surrendered and told officers there was a gun in his satchel, and police recovered a loaded .380 semi-automatic handgun. He reportedly consented to search of his car, which was examined by the bomb squad before police recovered rifle ammo and a loaded short-barrel AR-15 with no serial number. Police referred to the weapon as a “ghost gun,” which contains prefabricated components that can make it untraceable.
The police report suggests that Tital was remorseful after his arrest, and his girlfriend reportedly told police that he voiced suicidal thoughts. Police say Tital told officers that after telling the Snapchat user he was at the mall, “he felt sick and anxious and was leaving Valley Fair Mall then got arrested.”
Tital declined requests for in-custody media interviews. He is scheduled to return to court next month.
— to www.mercurynews.com