Solano County Sheriff Thomas Ferrara has come under fire from critics claiming he hasn’t been completely transparent when he said federal law enforcement cleared several of his deputies of being members of an extremist organization.
Ferrara told Benicia Black Lives Matter (BBLM) in a letter this week that the FBI “confirmed none of my employees are members of any extremist organizations.”
This includes the Three Percenters militia group, which advocates for the Second Amendment and the right for private gun ownership, along with active resistance toward the U.S. government.
Ferrara and the Sheriff’s Office have not released any official reports or documents supporting Ferrara’s claim that his deputies were absolved of being part of an extremist organization.
“I’m not comfortable with the sheriff’s response,” said Nimat Shakoor-Grantham, co-founder of BBLM, on Thursday. “(Ferrara) has proof that deputies in his office supported these groups in the past. You can take off the uniform but you can’t take off the bias.”
Three Percenters are an anti-government militia named after the mistaken idea that only 3 percent of the American colonists fought in the revolution against Great Britain.
Shakoor-Grantham pointed to the firing of a Fresno police officer after he allegedly participated in a rally held by the far-right extremist group Proud Boys in mid-March. The officer was placed on leave the following day and then subsequently terminated.
“What other proof does this sheriff need?” she added. “The FBI has deemed militia organizations like this as terrorist groups.”
In its letter, which was also directed at the Benicia City Council, BBLM demanded that Ferrara and the council “not only visibly and vocally condemn right wing extremism, but also pledge to conduct a full investigation both at the County level and at the City level to ensure that policies and procedures – including those focused on recruitment and disciplinary actions – are in place to actively expel these extremists from the ranks of law enforcement and to prevent their recruitment in the first place.”
Brandon Greene, co-founder of BBLM, said Ferrara’s letter showed his unwillingness to weed out extremists in his office and be transparent about his investigation.
“Where is this FBI report?” asked Greene on Thursday. “Put it out to the public and community for scrutiny.”
The county did not respond to a request from this news organization to see the FBI report.
Both Greene and Shakoor-Grantham said the Solano County Board of Supervisors’ decision not to get involved is frustrating.
“The sheriff is almost emboldened by the lack of Board of Supervisor action,” Greene added.
Greene said BBLM sent a letter asking the board to do something, with Supervisor Monica Brown the only one to respond.
“(Supervisor) Monica Brown said the board didn’t have the power to investigate,” Greene said.
Greene says that isn’t true, as a newly enacted law, Assembly Bill 1185, allows the board to create a civilian sheriff oversight board and inspector general position. The board and inspector general would have subpoena power to investigate issues within the sheriff’s office.
Shakoor-Grantham and Greene said they have approached the board to have an item placed on the agenda to discuss the issues raised by the Open Vallejo investigation.
“So far, it’s been crickets,” Shakoor-Grantham said. “They won’t talk about it.”
A request for comment sent to the clerk of the Solano County Board of Supervisors wasn’t immediately returned on Thursday.
Ferrara continues to reject the findings from Open Vallejo’s investigation, claiming he found “no merit” in the allegations made in the report.
Open Vallejo originally reported that members of Ferrara’s office displayed imagery and support to the Three Percenters over social media during the past few years. Former Solano County sheriff’s Public Information Officer Daniel “Cully” Pratt, who owns a wood-working business, made a gun display rack for his colleague Sgt. Roy Stockton in 2016. Cully Pratt’s brother is well-known actor Chris Pratt.
The piece includes Three Percenter imagery, like 13 shotgun shells arranged in a circle around the Roman numeral III. It also has “WILL NOT COMPLY,” at the bottom of the display. Cully Pratt used the hashtag “#3percenter,” and “blackgunsmatter,” among others in the Instagram post.
Cully Pratt told The Vacaville Reporter in response to the Open Vallejo article that the symbols in the post were “believed to be strictly in support of the 2nd Amendment and Pro-America — not in any way extremist anti-government views.”
However, in the same year Cully Pratt unveiled his art on Instagram, Three Percenters from Idaho sent some of its members over to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon during an armed standoff with federal officials.
Stockton, who was recently elected to the Vacaville City Council, also sold leather products under the name High Brass Leather and another business. As of Thursday evening, the High Brass Leather website had been taken down. For a time, a product was displayed on the site showing a coiled snake and a Roman numeral three surrounded by 13 stars.
Open Vallejo also uncovered that Ferrara’s office homeless outreach coordinator, Deputy Dale Matsuoka, under the name Matt Daley posted Three Percenter imagery over his social media.
With the lack of information coming from the Board of Supervisors and Ferrara’s office, Shakoor-Grantham says she is fearful interacting with sheriff’s deputies.
“I can’t call the sheriff’s office for support,” she said. “I don’t want them coming to my house. I’m a Black woman. It scares me.”