Contra Costa County prosecutors filed charges Wednesday against a man Richmond police say made death threats against Muslims.
Meanwhile, police in the East Bay city are facing questions about why it took more than 10 days to respond to reports of the alleged threats by William Celli -- which allegedly included shouted vows to kill members of a mosque and a Facebook post suggesting he'd built a pipe bomb.
Prosecutors say they're charging Celli, 55, with making death threats and violating the state's hate crime law in a series of incidents that began two days after the Dec. 2 San Bernardino terror attack.
Celli was arrested at his Richmond home on Sunday, and a bomb squad was called in to dispose of the suspected bomb. The device turned out not to contain explosives.
Here's how Bay Area News Group reporters Matthias Gafni, Karina Ioffee and Thomas Peele described the start of the case in a story reporting on Celli's arrest:
On Dec. 4, William Celli stood outside the Islamic Society of West Contra Costa County and yelled "I'm going to kill you all" at worshipers as they left a prayer service, the mosque's leader said Monday.
Members of the mosque alerted police, and they launched an investigation into the local plumber and self-proclaimed Donald Trump supporter who posted on Facebook that he would follow the Republican presidential candidate "to the end of the world." On Sunday, police said, they arrested Celli, 55, after learning he posted a photo of a pipe bomb on social media. Inside his Richmond home, investigators said they found a pipe bomb-type device that was not armed with explosives.
What police didn't say at the time of the arrest is that they'd apparently missed the initial tip that Celli had posted the pipe bomb photo. A Facebook friend of Celli was alarmed by the picture, The Guardian reported Tuesday, and alerted her local police department -- in Connecticut. According to the Guardian account:
Maria DiLoreto Banks, a childhood friend of Celli who took a screen grab of the postings when they appeared on her feed, has shared the images with the Guardian. She provided the same information to the police more than two weeks ago. ...
... Banks said she became “nervous” when she saw her old friend’s Facebook posts and took screenshots of them. Two days later, she handed them into her local police station in Wethersfield, Connecticut. “I know Billy, but I haven’t seen him in a while and I didn’t feel comfortable because God forbid something happened and I didn’t do anything about it,” she added.
Later that night, on 6 December, Banks said she received a phone call from a California police agency following up on her report.
“They got the post and they wanted to know if it was still there and if I wanted to remain anonymous and what I knew, and to verify that all the information from the Wethersfield police department was correct and I wasn’t some flake,” she said. That was the last she heard from law enforcement.
Celli was not arrested until Sunday, 16 days after police were warned that a man fitting his description had been threatening congregants at the mosque, and 14 days after Banks raised the alarm over his Facebook post of a bomb.
The California police agency that Banks referred to was apparently the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office -- which got involved because Celli has a vacation home in the foothills town of Copperopolis.