Suspect back in jail after Utah gun allegations
San Jose man charged with shooting out security cameras at schools in Willow Glen last year allegedly tried to set up straw purchases of gun parts while attending Utah State University
A man charged with repeatedly shooting out security cameras at schools in Willow Glen last year is back in jail after he tried to convince his classmates at Utah State University to help him secretly build an Uzi, authorities say.
Nicholas O’Connor, 21, of San Jose was ordered by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Matthew Harris to return to jail Wednesday for violating conditions of his $150,000 bail while studying in northern Utah.
O’Connor — now in the Elmwood men’s jail in Milpitas — was indicted by a grand jury April 9 on vandalism and weapon charges on allegations that he twice destroyed security cameras at Willow Glen High School in October, once with a hammer, and another time by shooting at it; and twice shot out security cameras at Booksin Elementary School.
In the final incident on Nov. 28 at Booksin, an alert resident heard early morning gunfire and confronted O’Connor, who reportedly fled and in his escape tried to bury a shotgun, gloves and a gorilla mask he had worn to apparently conceal his identity.
O’Connor attracted police attention again over the past couple weeks in Logan, Utah, where he is attending Utah State University. Ac- cording to campus police reports, O’Connor had unnerved several schoolmates with conversations inwhich he asked to use their post office boxes to receive gun parts he would buy with gift cards, to avoid having his name associated with the purchases.
Several of them later spoke to police, and said O’Connor had gone target shooting with them and fired a gun. Both the attempt at coordinating a straw gun purchase, and the target shooting are clear violations of a criminal protective order issued when he was given bail on April 26, which specified he “must not own, possess, buy or try to buy, receive or try to receive, or otherwise obtain a firearm of ammunition.”
Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Brian King commended the quick action by the Utah State students, police there, and authorities in San Jose.
“It’s important in cases that have serious public safety concerns that law enforcement and civilians can collaborate easily and freely, and that happened in this case,” King said.
In one conversation, a witness told police that O’Connor wanted a “mini Uzi,” and that it “would not be used for hunting or recreation and that it would be fully automatic,” according to a police report.
Another witness recalled a conversation in which O’Connor reportedly asked an acquaintance if he wanted to make some quick money, and offered $500 to use the person’s post office box. The police report stated it led to an “awkward” exchange where the acquaintance asked “You’re not planning a school shooting are you, please don’t shoot me if you are,” to which O’Connor reportedly replied, “Haha I won’t, I won’t shoot you, oh yeah, don’t worry, I won’t shoot you.”
O’Connor was reportedly angry at his schoolmates for reporting him to police.
Karen Scherrer, the resident who confronted O’Connor the day he was arrested, wrote a Facebook post Wednesday voicing dismay at the latest allegations against O’Connor and lauding Harris and King for bringing “peace and safety to our community today.”
“I could not believe that after his 2 month shooting spree in San Jose, he would move to Utah and try to illegally purchase an automatic weapon,” Scherrer wrote. “This is not aman that loves or admires or respects guns, this is a reckless young man, that is striking fear in our community.”
King noted that the District Attorney’s Office has prioritized, through policies and initiatives, keeping guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people.
“When you’re presented with this particular set of circumstances, immediate action is appropriate,” King said. “Given the landscape, and events that have happened recently, these cases are at the forefront of public safety concerns.”
O’Connor is next scheduled to appear in court June 20.