Members of the California Highway Patrol search for explosive materials… (LiPo Ching, Mercury News )
SAN FRANCISCO — State Sen. Leland Yee has received death threats before, he said Thursday, but this one was "unlike any other."
The emailed message that arrived four weeks ago was explicit and chilling, the San Francisco Democrat told reporters two days after a suspect was arrested — so specific that it could not be ignored as "racist ranting" or protected speech.
"The author of that email specifically stated that if I did not cease efforts to deal with gun violence that he would assassinate me in or around the Capitol," Yee said during a morning news conference here. "He stated that he was a trained sniper."
Yee said his office immediately notified authorities about the cogent, several-hundred-word message, which "detailed in a rather specific way certain weapons that he possessed and exactly how he was going to kill me."
On Tuesday, law enforcement officials arrested Everett Basham, 45, on multiple charges in the case. The Silicon Valley engineer once worked with Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak, according to a LinkedIn page that appears to be his.
Chief Scott MacGregor, head of the California Highway Patrol's protective services division, said officers found "precursor chemicals" used for bomb making and "chemicals that had an explosive component" while serving a search warrant at Basham's Santa Clara home.
On Thursday, officers from the San Jose Police Department's bomb squad removed "a handful of destructive devices" from the property while lab technicians worked to identify the chemicals, said Officer Sean Kennedy, a CHP spokesman. Authorities were still searching the one-story home and a detached garage, slowly wading through waist-deep piles of papers, boxes and other items, he said.
MacGregor, who appeared with Yee on Thursday morning, said officials are "not suggesting that [Basham] was anywhere near taking action on the threat" against the legislator but rather that "he was arrested for making the threat."
Several weapons were also found during the search, although MacGregor declined to describe the firearms or discuss whether they were obtained legally.
Asked why four weeks had elapsed between the email and the arrest, MacGregor said that the CHP spent the time working closely with the Senate sergeant at arms "to investigate the nature of the threat and see if it was credible."
MacGregor said authorities believe the suspect acted alone.
Each year, senators get thousands of letters, emails, phone calls, office visits and other forms of communications that could be deemed "inappropriate contact," said Senate Sgt. At Arms Tony Beard, who oversees security for the upper house.
About 50 of those cases are deemed serious enough to trigger law enforcement investigations.
Beard said gun control is one of the issues that seem to cause a spike in threats. He said a group called Friendly Fire mailed bullets to legislators several years ago during one bill debate.
Earlier this month, Yee introduced legislation that would outlaw devices on semiautomatic weapons that allow them to be easily reloaded, as well as require all guns to have a locked trigger and be properly stored in a lock box when not in use.
The former school psychologist and longtime gun-control advocate said he also plans to propose annual registration requirements and background checks for gun owners.
Yee said he had received threats on several occasions but the level of detail in Basham's email set his message apart from others. At an afternoon news conference in Sacramento, the lawmaker said Basham wrote that "he could in fact identify a target two miles away and that you may not even know that he is watching you, and he could take you out that way."
But Yee vowed to press ahead. "Neither this threat nor any other threat is going to deter me from addressing the critical issues surrounding gun violence."
Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.