, October 22, 2021

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Former Solano County gun club was hotbed of Three Percenter activity


  •   12 min reads
Former Solano County gun club was hotbed of Three Percenter activity
Craig Bock, the late former owner of Twin Sisters Gun Club in Fairfield, in an undated photo posted to Facebook.


Years before Ian Rogers would be charged with conspiring to blow up the Democrats’ Sacramento headquarters, he visited the Twin Sisters Gun Club, a 160-acre wooded plot just outside of Fairfield that Solano County ordered shut down five years ago.

One of the club’s owners, Facebook engineer Thomas Bock, engaged in a lengthy legal fight to overturn the decision before he sold the property in 2018. Neighbors complained that they continued to hear gunfire well after it was ostensibly closed and court records indicate that it was still available to members of an extreme anti-government organization.

Rogers was allegedly one of those members. He was arrested in January after investigators recovered five pipe bombs and nearly 50 guns — including illegal machine guns — from his home and auto repair business in Napa. In July, federal prosecutors charged Rogers and a co-conspirator, Jarrod Copeland, with plotting to attack the Democrats because they were angry about the results of the 2020 election.

A video that allegedly shows Rogers firing an illegal fully-automatic AK-47 with a 75-round drum at Twin Sisters was provided to the FBI and obtained by the Vallejo Sun.

An undated video allegedly showing accused domestic terrorist Ian Rogers firing an automatic AK-47 at Twin Sisters Gun Club.

Jess Raphael, Rogers’ defense attorney in state court, said in an email that the video shows that Rogers’ only intended use for his collection of weapons was for sport. “Ian told the investigators that he has only test fired any of his collection at shooting ranges, particularly Twin Sisters,” Raphael said.

Prosecutors also allege that Rogers and Copeland were members of the far-right militia organization the Three Percent United Patriots or 3UP. The Bay Area faction of 3UP used a variety of communications platforms, including Facebook, which banned them after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. In an affidavit filed when Rogers was charged, the FBI described the Three Percenters as “people who ascribe to extreme anti-government, pro-gun beliefs.”

Reviews of social media postings and public records regarding Twin Sisters Gun Club indicate that many others involved with the club – including its late owner, his widow, and their family and friends – were associated with the Three Percenters as well.

Twin Sisters had existed in some form for nearly 70 years, but the gun club expanded significantly after it was left to two brothers, Craig and Thomas Bock, in 2009. Over the next several years, it became the site of trainings in long-range shooting, national competitions, and had as many as 250 paid members when it was shut down, according to a 2016 letter from the club’s attorney.

Craig Bock primarily oversaw the expansion. A U.S. Army veteran, Bock had a tattoo on his arm of the Three Percenter emblem, a Roman numeral III surrounded by 13 stars.

The Three Percenters were founded in 2009 in reaction to the election of President Barack Obama and believe they are preparing for a second Civil War. The loose-knit group has no central organization and instead is typically individuals or small groups with sympathetic ideology. But there are some affiliated national organizations, such as 3UP, which originated in Colorado and boasts membership across the United States. Among other things, 3UP has engaged in rogue border patrols in Arizona.

Three Percenters have been implicated in violent plots across the country, including the bombing of a mosque in Minnesota and the attempted kidnapping of Michigan’s governor. Several people affiliated with Three Percenter groups have been charged in the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.

The anti-government, pro-gun ideology has documented support in Solano County, including among members of the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, who have posted Three Percenter symbols on social media. Sheriff Tom Ferrara has denied that any deputies associate with extremist groups and said that the deputies merely intended to show support for the 2nd Amendment.

There is no indication that any sheriff’s deputies are associated with any known Three Percenter activities at Twin Sisters.

After Craig Bock died in a motorcycle crash in 2015, the gun club drew greater scrutiny. Neighbors complained of more frequent gunfire and reported hearing explosives and people firing automatic weapons.

The county reevaluated whether the club was appropriately exempt from zoning ordinances and eventually denied it a business license. During that time, Craig Bock’s brother Thomas acted as owner and filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the county to try and keep the club open. Meanwhile, Craig’s widow, Caitlin Bock, lived at the property and acted as manager, according to county records. Caitlin Bock also has a Three Percenter tattoo.

Early in 2018, Matthew McCrea, then a Hayward police sergeant, also lived at the gun club. McCrea has posted Three Percenter symbols on his Facebook profile and was arrested and charged with domestic violence after an incident outside the home in June 2018, according to Solano County Sheriff’s Office investigators. Hayward police opened an internal investigation, but did not disclose his arrest publicly and he remained a police officer for more than a year following the incident.

Thomas Bock, Caitlin Bock and McCrea did not respond to attempts to reach them for comment, including detailed questions sent to their attorneys. Hayward police declined to comment on McCrea’s arrest, whether they were aware of his having posted Three Percenter symbols, or why he left the agency.

Craig Bock and his wife, Caitlin Bock, at Twin Sisters Gun Club near Fairfield in a 2014 photo posted to Facebook. Craig Bock's Three Percenter tattoo is visible on his right arm.

Twin Sisters’ owners descended from a 19th Century Solano County sheriff

The tract of land that became Twin Sisters Park and later Twin Sisters Gun Club was originally acquired by Benjamin Franklin Rush, who was elected Solano County Sheriff in 1894 and later to the state senate. The land was passed down to his descendants, lastly to Craig and Thomas Bock after their mother died in 2008.

The club, named for twin peaks of the Howell Mountains, was apparently used for shooting in some form since at least 1951, but it is not clear to what extent. In the 1970s, the Solano Muzzle Loaders Association – a group that fires antique muskets – used a range on the property regularly. The owners at the time developed the property into Twin Sisters Park, a campground and recreation area.

After the Bock brothers inherited the property, aerial photographs show the construction of multiple new shooting ranges. Craig Bock, who served in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army until he was wounded in 2007, was responsible for the day-to-day operations. Meanwhile, his brother Thomas enrolled in Solano Community College and then studied electrical engineering at California State University Sacramento, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Complaints about noise on the property started in 2011, according to county records, but the county took little action until after Craig Bock was killed in a motorcycle crash in 2015. On June 7, Bock was riding his Harley Davidson on Suisun Valley Road a few miles from the gun club. The California Highway Patrol said a pickup truck made a left turn directly into his path. Bock crashed into the truck and died at the scene.

About two weeks later, an anonymous resident wrote to then-Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert asking for the county to examine the escalating noise coming from the club. The weeks following Bock’s death were eerily silent, the resident wrote. “This might be a good time to consider the use permit for the gun club.”

Shooting soon resumed. Over the next few months, the club was reportedly used for courses in sniper shooting, military training and national competitions, according to promotional material for the events and sheriff’s reports obtained through public records requests.

On Aug. 19, 2015, the sheriff’s office received a call that there were bombs going off at the club. That Sept. 27, the gun club held a “Bock and Load” memorial for Craig Bock. Video of the event shows numerous people wearing Three Percenter memorabilia firing guns during a barbecue. On Feb. 12 and 13, 2016, the TV show 3 Gun Nation had a competition scheduled at Twin Sisters. The day after that, the U.S. Practical Shooting Association held a match there. On March 16, someone from Twin Sisters called the sheriff’s office and said that “the military” was conducting “low light training” there until 10 p.m.

One neighbor of the gun club, Keith Life, complained that some members were firing over his property. On July 11, 2016, he sent a video to the county that showed him narrowly avoid being shot.

Keith Life, a neighbor of Twin Sisters Gun Club, provided this video to the county that shows him narrowly avoid being shot.

Solano County ordered Twin Sisters Gun Club shut down in 2016

Responding to the neighbor complaints, the county took a closer look at whether the gun club was operating legally. In October 2015, Thomas Bock produced a U.S. Geological Survey map from 1951 that identified Twin Sisters Gun Club, leading the county to conclude that it predated zoning ordinances and was therefore exempt. Bock was, however, required to apply for a business license but never did. He submitted the club’s first and only application for a business license in January 2016.

The zoning exemption would not apply if the gun club had significantly expanded its operations. By July 2016, the county concluded that it had.

“There have been reports of the recent use of exploding targets and target training courses that are sited in locations that may pose a hazard to residents on adjoining properties,” Solano County Director of Resource Management Bill Emlen wrote in a July 21, 2016, letter to Thomas Bock, adding that complaints about “noise and dangerous conditions” had recently “increased dramatically.”

“At this point the County believes there is substantial evidence that the gun club use has expanded far beyond historical levels,” Emlen wrote.

Neighbors gathered hundreds of signatures asking the county to deny the gun club’s business permit. The petition said that the club subjected them to “explosive devices, semi-automatic and automatic weapons fire.” That August, the county denied Thomas Bock’s business license application.

But the gun club apparently did not shut down.

In September 2016, the sheriff’s office received calls of shooting after dark and automatic gunfire. Deputies responded and said they heard shots, but not fully automatic fire, according to sheriff’s dispatch reports.

Thomas Bock filed an appeal challenging the county’s denial of his business permit. When sheriff’s deputies responded to more reports of gunfire a week later, Craig Bock’s widow Caitlin Bock, who lived at the property, told the deputies that the gun club was continuing operations pending its appeal. The gun club had scheduled a second “Bock and Load” memorial event later that month.

On Sept 20, 2016, Deputy County Counsel Davina Smith wrote to Thomas Bock’s attorney that the gun club “must cease operations immediately until they have an approved business license.”

Following a hearing in February 2017, a hearing officer upheld the denial of the business license, but even that did not appear to stop the shooting at the property.

Neighbor Keith Life complained again in June that he had been hearing gunfire for 40 minutes and bullets were once again going over his property. A month later, Thomas Bock sued the county alleging it had violated his civil rights by denying the business license. A caller to the sheriff’s office in August reported that they heard shooting several weekends in a row. Another caller in January 2018 complained of gunfire starting at about 9 a.m. The sheriff’s office contacted the shooters, who told deputies they would finish their shooting that afternoon.

The full extent of gunfire on the property during that time isn’t clear. But court records regarding Ian Rogers — the Napa mechanic accused of plotting to bomb the Democrats’ Sacramento headquarters — indicate that members of the Three Percent United Patriots may have been allowed to shoot there.

A tipster who provided information about Rogers to the FBI said that 3UP members like him were allowed to shoot at Twin Sisters Gun Club, even after it closed.

Hayward police sergeant arrested at Twin Sisters

By early 2018, Caitlin Bock was living with Matthew McCrea, then a Hayward police sergeant, at the gun club. McCrea was a Vallejo police officer until 2010, when he transferred to Hayward along with Officer Sean Kenney, who would later return to Vallejo where he became notorious for fatally shooting three people within five months in 2012.

McCrea was involved in a controversial incident in Hayward in 2015, when he was the supervising officer when Roy Nelson Jr. was killed in police custody after he suffered a mental health crisis in his home. Video of the incident shows the officers pull Nelson from a patrol car and forcibly push him face-first into the pavement. Nelson became unresponsive a few minutes later and died later that night. The coroner’s report found his cause of death was “cardiac arrhythmia due to acute methamphetamine and amphetamine intoxication associated with physical exertion.”

Since then, McCrea has shown support for the Three Percenter movement on social media. On his Facebook page, where he uses the alias “Mac Ray,” he posted Three Percenter symbols publicly at least twice, including on Feb. 12, 2018, when he posted a Three Percent patch with a “thin blue line” background, indicating support for law enforcement.

Hayward police Sgt. Matthew McCrea posted this Three Percenter logo with a "thin blue line" on Facebook in 2018. Photo: Vallejo Sun/screenshot.

McCrea was arrested on June 3, 2018, after a fight outside the home at Twin Sisters during a family gathering, according to a Solano County sheriff’s report. Sheriff’s office records indicate that Hayward police opened an internal affairs investigation into the incident. The Solano County District Attorney’s Office charged McCrea with misdemeanor domestic violence three weeks after his arrest.

Bock told investigators that McCrea suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from his work as a police officer, specifically from finding the dismembered remains of a missing Uber driver in a warehouse in Hayward. She said that the Hayward Police Department was aware of his issues and McCrea had previously been placed on “stress leave,” but he had stopped attending counseling a few weeks before his arrest. McCrea’s supervisor told him he was “spiraling,” but the department took no further action, according to Bock.

McCrea remained employed by Hayward police for more than a year after his arrest while his prosecution was ongoing.

The city said it has no internal affairs records regarding McCrea that could be released, including records regarding Nelson’s death. State law requires the release of internal investigations into use of force that results in death or great bodily injury, but the city argued that “the cause of death was not determined to be based on the involvement of the Hayward Police Department.”

McCrea completed a diversion program for the domestic violence charge. His attorney, Vincent Maher, argued for leniency because of McCrea’s PTSD. The charges were dismissed last year. In a Facebook post the next day, McCrea wrote, “I needed to make the changes and work on myself too. Responsibility still needed to be taken because PTSD is not an excuse, it’s an explanation and reasoning.”

As of Nov. 15, 2019, McCrea was no longer employed by the  Hayward Police Department, according to city records. After he left the department, McCrea moved to Valley Springs, where records show that he currently resides. McCrea did not respond to questions sent to Maher nor to his Facebook account.

The city of Hayward would not comment on McCrea or any personnel investigation regarding him, nor would it elaborate on why it would not release records regarding Nelson’s death.

City spokesperson Chuck Finnie said in an email that if a Hayward police officer was arrested for domestic violence they would be relieved of duty pending the conclusion of an internal affairs investigation. Finnie did not respond to questions about how long such an investigation would take.

Twin Sisters Gun Club left the Bock family in 2018

Thomas Bock sold Twin Sisters Gun Club to two neighboring property owners for approximately $1.5 million on Sept. 1, 2018. He withdrew his civil rights suit against Solano County a few weeks later. Public records show no further complaints about the property following the sale.

According to his LinkedIn profile, starting in 2017, Bock worked in Facebook’s secretive research and development project Building 8, which was disbanded in 2018. He’s worked for Facebook as a prototype engineer since March 2018.

There is no known evidence that anyone with direct ties to Twin Sisters interacted with Ian Rogers, the alleged domestic terrorist.

Prosecutors said that Rogers and his alleged co-conspirator Jarrod Copeland attempted to solicit help from other militia members while they planned to damage or destroy political or technology targets over weeks of text messages. In addition to the Democrats’ headquarters, they also considered attacking the governor’s mansion or “bird” or “face,” meaning Twitter or Facebook.

It does not appear that anyone locally agreed to help Rogers and Copeland. During a court hearing in July, Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Riebli said that Copeland had succeeded in recruiting “a few guys” outside of California before he was arrested. Prosecutors have not released the identities of those people nor charged any other co-conspirators.

Neither Rogers nor Copeland had been charged with any violent crimes before they were arrested this year.

“Domestic terrorists of this sort frequently haven’t popped up on law enforcement radar before,” Riebli said. “That’s what makes them so dangerous — they come out of nowhere and they strike and they cause mass casualties.”

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