The man authorities say threatened to assassinate state Sen. Leland Yee is a well-connected Silicon Valley engineer with a penchant for firearms and a distrust of the government. And though Yee is no stranger to threats, this one reached a new level of sophistication, the senator said Thursday.
Everett Basham, 45, of Santa Clara was arrested Tuesday morning at a relative’s home in Sunnyvale, according to the California Highway Patrol, which provides security to state legislators. In his vehicle, police found a loaded, concealed firearm, according to Officer Sean Kennedy, a CHP spokesman. Basham is suspected of sending Yee an email four weeks ago that threatened to kill the lawmaker near the state Capitol in Sacramento unless Yee withdrew his gun control legislation.
At Basham’s home in Santa Clara, which had mounted security cameras, the CHP found homemade explosives. The explosives cache was detonated outside Basham’s home Thursday by a bomb squad.
Basham remains in custody on no-bail status and is charged with threatening a public official, attempting to light an explosive device with the intent to commit murder and possession of explosives.
During his career in Sacramento, Yee has been a repeated target of threatening emails, letters and faxes, said Adam Keigwin, the senator’s chief of staff. The usually racist “hate mail” has at times included death threats — such as calls to his office in 2005 after Yee introduced a bill to ban violent video games — but, “This was unlike anything we’ve ever encountered,” Keigwin said.
The email purportedly from Basham was one of about a “dozen” threatening messages sent to Yee following the introduction of a ban on quick-changing ammunition magazines, which came in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre.
This message included “when, where and how” Basham planned to kill Yee, Keigwin said. The sender, who used a fake name, claimed to have sniper training and an AR-15 assault rifle, Keigwin said.
An AR-15-style assault rifle was the weapon used in the Connecticut massacre and the Washington, D.C.-area sniper attacks in 2002.
Basham’s LinkedIn profile says he worked as an engineer at Hewlett-Packard for 18 years before briefly working with Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple Inc.
In an email to a local television station Wednesday, Wozniak described Basham as a “brilliant engineer” and a “champion for the common person” who was “distrustful of the government, as many of us are.”
Basham’s history and acumen with technology may have led to his arrest.
“When you get a highly intelligent, scientific type making these kind of threats, [law enforcement takes] it seriously,” said Jeff Snipes, a professor of criminology at San Francisco State University. Basham’s penchant for firearms may have played a role, as “wildly, atypical, off-the-wall” reactions from gun advocates have marked politicians’ efforts to enact stricter gun control following the Connecticut shooting.
As of late Thursday, well-wishers had descended on Yee’s Facebook page to offer words of support — but the senator’s detractors were posting as well.
“Would not have happened if you weren’t trying to take away peoples constitutional rights,” commenter Jason Buck wrote. “Just saying.”