A Sylmar man in his 20s was arrested on suspicion of making false threats against the Los Angeles County Fair to avoid going to the fair with his parents, the Pomona Police Department said Saturday.
The fair alerted the authorities shortly before 3 p.m. about the email that said there was going to be a mass shooting at the fair on Sunday.
Pomona police and the FBI launched an investigation and narrowed the list of suspects down to three possible suspects within hours, then tracked the email to Erik Villasenor, the department said.
Tactical teams and Pomona police officers descended on the man’s house by Friday night.
“Through interviews, they were able to determine that he did send that statement to the fair, and ultimately determined it was a hoax,” Pomona Chief of Police Michael Olivieri Jr. said in a video posted online.
Villasenor was taken into custody and booked into a Pomona jail for making the false threat, authorities said.
“He felt that it was appropriate to send this threat, and we believe that it was with the intent that it would spark some chaos and commotion, and be captured on the media, and then he could use that as an excuse to his parents to not go to the fair,” the chief said. “Kind of a crazy thing.”
Police said the email sent to the fair read, “hello, I was told that someone was planning on doing a mass shooting on Sunday at the fairground. I just wanted to inform you guys already.”
“Obviously in today’s world a message like that is very concerning,” the chief said.
The man is being held on $20,000 bail, according to county inmate records. The database lists his age as 24 years old, but the police chief said he is 22.
The department said it will be looking to seek reimbursement for the large amount of investigative resources devoted to the false threat.
Chief Olivieri described the fair’s security system as the “most robust” he has ever seen.
“It’s important that our community feels safe when they come to the fair. It’s our number one priority,” CEO of the Fairplex, Miguel Santana, said.
The Los Angeles County Fair is an annual month-long fair held in Pomona that usually draws thousands of visitors who enjoy food vendors and amusement park rides.
The fair announced last month that it will be beefing up security with a $200,000 investment in the wake of several recent mass shootings, including one at the Gilroy Garlic Festival where a gunman killed three people and wounded several others on July 28.
“It really provided us an opportunity to test the security systems that we worked so hard to create,” Santana said of Friday’s events.
Fair officials asked community members not to be discouraged by the incident, and assured them that the fair is secure.
“Come here, have a great time,” Santana said. “We have your back. We are here to ensure your safety.”
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Pomona Police Department at 909-620-2085. To provide information anonymously, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
We learned 9/13 of a possible threat. Working w/ Pomona Police & FBI were able to confirm that the threat was false. It’s illegal to make threats & the individual was arrested. Fairplex would like to express its deep appreciation for the speedy response by Pomona Police & FBI. https://t.co/gBjYbtbvaQ
— LA County Fair (@lacountyfair) September 14, 2019