Jesus Fabian Gonzalez, a homeless California man who’s known to both his peers and police for his love of starting fires, has become the center of an alt-right conspiracy theory linking him to the deadly California wildfires that have killed 42 people.
As the L.A. Times reports, Gonzalez, a known fixture of homeless encampments in and around the central California city of Sonoma, was known to police, and other homeless people, for his love of starting fires. Called “Oaxaca” by his homeless peers, Gonzalez was known for setting fires in the brush along a nearby creek bed. And on Sunday, after he allegedly set fire to some brush at Maxwell Farms Regional Park. Cops report they found a lighter and fire extinguisher on his person. Further, he allegedly admitted to starting the fire because he was cold. The fire was so small that a deputy was able to put it out himself before firefighters arrived.
For reasons that remain unclear, however, at least two “alt-right” websites, Breitbart.com and Infowars.com, reported, without any evidence, that Gonzalez had started the California wildfires that have so far been responsible for 42 deaths.
For example, according to the Sacramento Bee, both InfoWars and Breitbart repeated the same opening paragraph on Tuesday.
“The U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) issued a detainer request on the Sonoma County Jail for Jesus Fabian Gonzalez (sic), who was arrested Sunday on suspicion of arson in Wine Country fires that have killed at least 40 residents.”
Both publications cited as their source a story in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat about Gonzalez’ arrest. However, the Democrat did not link Gonzalez to the raging California wildfires, some of which were burning hours away from where Gonzalez was arrested.
Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said there is not evidence linking Gonzalez to any wildfires. Speaking to reporters this week, Giordano forcefully shot down such speculation.
“There is a story out there that he’s the arsonist in these fires. That’s not the case. There’s no indication he’s related to these fires at all…. I wanted to kill that speculation right now, so we didn’t have things running too far out of control.”
What’s more, Gonzalez’ immigration status is unclear. While both alt-right sites described Gonzalez as an illegal immigrant, and Breitbart reported that Sonoma jailers had placed him on an immigration hold. However, a spokesperson for the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on Gonzalez’ immigration status.
Despite a lack of evidence linking Gonzalez to the deadly wildfires, it seems that Breitbart‘s reporting has rung true with some readers.
“How many more innocent Californians must die on the alter [sic] of democrat immigration polices?”
40 Americans were murdered by illegal immigrant, Jesus Fabian Gonzalez (protected by sanctuary polices) last week…media silent. https://t.co/j6skgBXjPh
— Steph (@steph93065) October 17, 2017
Gonzalez remains jailed on $100,000 bond.
[Featured Image by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP]