A teenager in California is facing hate crime charges after shooting paintballs at a crowd of people outside a gay club in Stockton. The incident reportedly occurred at the same time Omar Mateen was shooting up the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12.
Branden Keithly Staples, 19, was arrested Wednesday evening outside Paradise LGBT nightclub in Stockton.
Staples has been charged with using an explosive device with intent to injure, assault with a deadly weapon, making criminal threats and a hate crime.
Besides the incident at the nightclub, the teenager is suspected of causing an explosion that destroyed a drain pipe cover back in May and of threatening staff members at St. Mary’s High School on social media earlier this month.
Reportedly, Staples was first called in for questioning by Stockton police regarding an Internet threat made on June 7. Stockton police officer Joe Silva told FOX40 that officers had determined Staples had made violent threats against the St. Mary’s High School on Twitter.
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On top of this, police determined Staples had also been responsible for shooting several people with blue paintballs outside the Paradise LGBT nightclub on June 12. The teenager is accused of opening fire at the nightclub at around 1:45 a.m., hitting at least two people.
On Thursday, Stockton police stated they have also arrested a 16-year-old accomplice in the paintball attack.
According to Silva, the series of crimes committed by Staples was concerning and led police to believe his behavior was escalating.
“Who knows what he would have done next? We’re still networking with other law enforcement agencies nearby to see if he may have been involved in other similar incidents,” Silva said.
Silva went on to say that teenagers involved in similar incidents tend to start with a basic threat on social media, and some then follow up with something bigger in their neighborhood.
Speaking of Staples, Nicholas Hatten, Executive Director of the San Joaquin Pride Center, said, “There’s characteristics there that could have manifested into some serious violence.”
Two Arrested in Paintball Attack Outside Stockton Gay Bar https://t.co/fvEKoejQqM
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Hatten went on to say the paintball attack shocked the local LGBT community, especially as it occurred on the same day that 49 people were killed and dozens were injured in the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
“So yes, it took what happened in Orlando for Stockton to realize the ramifications and sometimes how little actions can escalate and domino effect into somebody being hurt,” Hatten added.
According to Hatten it is unfortunate that crimes against the LGBT community are often dismissed until something more serious happens and someone is killed.
“At one time we had four different gay bars in Stockton. Currently we only have one. It’s Paradise. Everybody goes to it and it’s supposed to be a safe space,” Hatten said.
Despite the incredible timing of the paintball attack, police authorities do not think Staples’ actions are in any way related to Mateen’s killing of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
Reportedly, after Staples and the unnamed 16-year-old were arrested for the paintball shooting, Hatten told KCRA the LGBT community in the area was relieved their attacker had been caught.
According to the Stockton Record, Staples could be facing up to 10 years in prison if convicted and was scheduled to appear in court Friday. His bail is set at $6 million.
However, Deputy District Attorney Elton Grau said Staples could face additional charges if other victims come forward, or should other crimes be uncovered, in ongoing investigations by the Stockton Police Department, the Lodi Police Department and the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.
Grau added, “It’s an active investigation.”
“We’re not done. If (investigators) find more incidents of crimes or if there are more victims, there is always the potential of adding that.”
[Photo via Stockton Police Department]