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Cop car arsonist gets 4 years

A Sonora man accused of setting several Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office cars on fire a year ago was sentenced this week to four years and four months in state prison.

Samuel Henry Shockley, 33, was supposed to have a jury trial but pleaded guilty on Nov. 5 to auto theft and arson before the case could go before a jury, according to Tuolumne County District Attorney Mike Knowles. 


Shockley was also charged with six counts of attempted arson, but will not receive an additional sentence per car burned, Knowles said.

About 3 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2011, a fire was reported behind the Sheriff’s Office patrol annex building on Seco Street.

A Toyota pickup truck registered to a Sonora woman was fully engulfed in flames and parked between two burning patrol cars. Three patrol vehicles were destroyed, with damages exceeding $50,000. Other cars in the parking lot had been covered with flammable liquid.

Deputies testified at the preliminary hearing that the woman, who was interviewed while firefighters extinguished the blaze, said she normally left her truck parked in front of her Hillcrest Drive home with the doors unlocked and keys in the ignition. 

After a six-month investigation by the Sheriff’s Office with the help of the District Attorney’s Office and FBI, Shockley was arrested April 5 at a Manteca residence. 

 He was booked into Tuolumne County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.

A separate investigation the following day uncovered surveillance footage of the stolen pickup truck driving up to the Indigeny Reserve apple ranch on Summers Lane in Apple Valley and a male driver loading gas cans and batteries into the truck. 

Various items found in the plastic box that contained the stolen batteries were sent to the Department of Justice for DNA processing. DNA collected from battery connectors showed a match for Shockley, detectives testified. 

Shockley apparently attended a party at a residence on Banner Drive in Sonora the night of the arson, and, about 11 p.m., told a couple living at the home that he was going to a bar downtown for more drinks, according to a testimony from Sheriff’s Detective Gregory Rogers.

Rogers testified that witnesses mentioned Shockley smelled of fuel and cigarettes when he returned to the home between 3:30 and 4 a.m.

He will serve three years and eight months for the arson and auto theft, and an additional eight months of consecutive time because he was on probation for another felony auto theft.

Based on his sentence, the earliest Shockley could be up for parole is in approximately 22 months, Knowles said. Parole is also contingent upon behavior.

He was sentenced Monday.

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