Firearm Obsession Leads to Arrest

Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren Rupf today called a Montalvin Manor man arrested in connection with several law enforcement weapons thefts  a "potential domestic terrorist."

Daniel Vess, 20, was in county jail on unrelated charges when sheriff's investigators allegedly connected him to four weapons and equipment  thefts in December and January from the sheriff's office and the California  Highway Patrol, Contra Costa County Sheriff's Capt. Daniel Terry said.

On April 14 investigators served a search warrant on Vess' home at 1240 Karen Road in an unincorporated area of San Pablo, where they found  about $10,000 to $15,000 of stolen weapons and equipment, including several  assault rifles, a modified shotgun, ballistic vests and helmets, night vision  equipment, military fatigues and about 5,000 rounds of ammunition, Terry  said.

Vess' pickup truck was equipped with a siren and strobe light allegedly stolen from a police vehicle and bore a fictitious law enforcement  emblem identifying him as a "Fugitive Recovery Agent," according to Terry.

"He can best be described as a loner and an individual obsessed with firearms," Terry said.

Vess lived alone in a squalid, dilapidated house. The windows were boarded up and the walls were riddled with bullet holes. It appeared that he  used the inside of his house and the tailgate of his truck for target  practice, Terry said.

Investigators did not find documents or other evidence leading them to believe Vess had plans to harm anyone, but because he had compiled  "tools of warfare" and outfitted his vehicle to be able to pull someone over,  Terry said he believes investigators "were able to prevent a potential  horrific act."

Terry said investigators had recovered most of the items stolen in the four burglaries, but were still missing several firearms.

The first burglary happened in mid-December at the CHP office at 5001 Blum Road in Martinez. A burglar, now alleged to be Vess, cut a fence  surrounding a secure lot, crept past motion-sensor lights and stole a  tactical rifle and ammunition out of a patrol car, CHP Officer Tom Maguire  said shortly after the incident.

Then on Jan. 5, three AR-15 assault rifles and a shotgun were stolen from vehicles parked at the sheriff's Field Operations Building in  Martinez. A vehicle was also broken into at the sheriff's Bay Station in  Richmond, Terry said.

The fourth break-in happened Feb. 25 at the sheriff's shooting range near Marsh Creek Road in unincorporated Contra Costa County.

Terry said the sheriff's office was working with federal prosecutors to see if the case could be tried in federal court, which could  mean stricter penalties for Vess.

Vess is being held without bail at the Martinez Detention Facility.

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