Seaside man arrested with guns in San Jose mall shooting threat

Peninsula Premier Admin

SAN JOSE — A Monterey County man was arrested Wednesday after he drove to San Jose with a handgun and assault rifle, apparently following up on threats he posted on social media about “shooting up” the Westfield Valley Fair mall, according to San Jose police.

The man, identified as 21-year-old Seaside resident Hunter Tital, was spotted by San Jose police officers in the late afternoon outside the Nordstrom department store, and surrendered without any violence, police said. Around 4 p.m., San Jose police say they were alerted by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office about a Snapchat post by Tital in which he reportedly made the shooting claim.

That prompted a heavy response from SJPD and Santa Clara police — the two agencies share jurisdiction of the mall, which is bisected by the city boundaries — and officers found Tital within about 45 minutes. It was not immediately clear how long he had been at the mall before then.

Police said Tital was carrying a concealed firearm when he was arrested, and a review of arrest records indicate that was a handgun shown in a photo tweeted by SJPD. For hours after his arrest, police surrounded Tital’s car parked on the west end of the mall, and bomb squad technicians and a bomb robot examined the vehicle.

They would eventually recover a short-barrel tactical rifle with a pistol grip and .300 AAC Blackout rounds designed to give the performance of rifle ammunition in more compact size. Police characterized the weapon as an assault rifle and a “ghost gun,” or assembled from prefabricated parts that can make it untraceable.

Tital was booked into the Elmwood men’s jail on suspicion of making criminal threats, possessing a concealed firearm, carrying a loaded firearm in public, and possessing an assault rifle. He was being held Thursday on $200,000 bail.

The Seaside Police Department and the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety were also involved in the police response to Wednesday’s threat. In a statement, Westfield lauded security guards and officers for “their immediate and heroic response,” which was echoed by San Jose police.

“Timely information coupled with the quick and courageous response of our officers and those of the Santa Clara Police Department, averted a potentially tragic incident,” acting Chief David Tindall said in a statement.

On top of frayed nerves, several mall employees turned to social media to lament how they weren’t alerted to what was unfolding, in some cases just a few doors down outside the second-floor Nordstrom entrance. Cordelia Madrid, who works at the Dr. Marten’s shoe store, said she didn’t get any notice of the situation until after it was over.

“It wasn’t until today, that we found out he was so close to my store,” Madrid said Thursday.

In a statement intended for mall employees, San Jose police said they wanted to close in on the suspect quickly without alerting him with store lockdowns, or cause a mass scramble based on a threat that at the time consisted of a social-media post and not a tangible shooter sighting.

“In this case, an announcement could have caused more danger to all involved. Any trigger to the suspect could have been the catalyst for a violent act,” the statement reads. “He was unable to carry out any potential plan, while being caught by surprise as officers approached him.”

Madrid said she understood the concern, but added that even a nonspecific directive to stay put would have been helpful, if only to keep people from unwittingly walking into a confrontation.

“It doesn’t have to be language that could incite a lot of fear,” she said. “I think that’s just too big of a risk.”

Valley Fair was the target of a social-media mass-shooting threat about a year ago, but it was deemed to be a “swatting” attempt, when a person purposefully tries to provoke a large police response at a location as a provocative or retaliatory act.

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 3: San Jose Police Department officers rope off an area on the west side of Westfield Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

Contributed by local news sources

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