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

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - By Robert Sa­longa rsa­longa@ba­yare­anews­ Con­tact Robert Sa­longa at

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.


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