SONOMA COUNTY, CA — Sonoma County sheriff Rob Giordano issued a statement Thursday afternoon in response to what he called “misinformation about a suspected arsonist” who has been identified in some news reports as possibly being responsible for starting the deadly wildfires that have devastated the North Bay area in the past week-and-a-half.
Currently jailed in Sonoma County, Mexican citizen Jesus Fabian Gonzalez was arrested when he was allegedly caught starting a fire in a Sonoma Valley park as fires still burned in the region.
In an Oct. 18 statement, Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, called Sonoma County a “non-cooperative jurisdiction” in regard to ICE’s detainer request that the sheriff’s office hold Gonzalez 48 hours past his release date.
Here is the ICE statement:
“Once again, a non-cooperative jurisdiction has left their community vulnerable to dangerous individuals and preventable crimes. ICE lodged a detainer against Jesus Gonzalez with Sonoma County jail officials on October 16, following his arrest on felony charges for maliciously setting fire to a property. This is especially troubling in light of the massive wildfires already devastating the region. Over the past year, ICE has lodged detainers against Mr. Gonzalez after four separate arrests by Sonoma County on various felony and misdemeanor charges. ICE was never notified of Mr. Gonzalez’ various releases. Additionally, Mr. Gonzales has been returned to his home country of Mexico on two separate occasions. The residents of Sonoma County, and the state of California, deserve better than policies that expose them to avoidable dangers. Non-cooperation policies – now enshrined in California state law – ensure only one thing: criminals who would otherwise be deported will be released and left free to reoffend as they please.”
And here is Sheriff Giordano’s response:
“The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a press release yesterday that was inaccurate, inflammatory, and damages the relationship we have with our community.
“Here are the facts surrounding the recent arrest of Jesus Fabian Gonzalez. Gonzalez was arrested by the Sheriff’s Office on October 15, 2017 for felony arson. He’s being held in the Sonoma County jail on $100,000 bail for this arson charge and a $100,000 misdemeanor drug warrant from Ventura County. His bail for the current arson charge was raised by the Sonoma County courts.
“This arson arrest occurred in Maxwell Farms Park in the Sonoma Valley. Gonzalez is a Sonoma Valley resident who was recognized by deputies and has been seen sleeping in the same park where he started the fire. Gonzalez told the deputies he lit the fire to warm himself up.
“Cal Fire is investigating the cause of the wildland fires that devastated our community. They have not released a cause. We don’t know if these fires were arson or caused by another source. There is no indication that Gonzalez had anything to do with these fires and it appears highly unlikely.