A Sonora man on parole for the 2013 arson of Sonora Elementary School was arrested Wednesday morning in connection with red, gang-inspired graffiti spray-painted on at least five Sonora locations, including the Sonora Dome.
Between July 2 and July 9, Sonora Police officers received reports of tags throughout downtown Sonora, said Sgt. Curtis Hankins.
Indistinguishable words and letters spray-painted on public chalkboards outside the Sonora Tap Room on Linoberg Street and a wave of red was painted on a vehicle parked on South Washington Street. Four days after they were reported, the chalkboards were tagged again in the same style and same red paint. Along the Linoberg Street wall, on propane tanks at the corner of Green Street and Bradford Street, and along the colonnade of the Sonora Dome, officers found variations on the number 14 — a reference to the Mexican and Latin American gang Norteños.
The graffiti on Sonora Dome, which was formerly Sonora Elementary School after it was constructed in the early 1900s, was reported on July 5. Spray painted letters, 14 iconography and an expletive were also found on the right-side wall of the dome and on the basement door to the community radio station KAAD-LP.
On the rock wall lining Barretta Street below the dome, a suspect also wrote “Never Back Down.”
The Sonora Police Department obtained video surveillance footage from Cassina High School where the Sonora Dome is located and from a downtown business.
While viewing the video, an officer said he knew the person in the footage as Shahaun Davis, 22, of Sonora.
Sonora Police officers and a State Parole Agent conducted a parole search of a home on the 100 block of West Bradford Street Wednesday morning, where Davis and a 20-year-old Sonora resident were located.
Hankins said Davis declined to give a statement to the officers, but evidence was found at the home linking Davis to the graffiti and to the Norteños.
Hankins said he could not release additional information on the specific evidence found at the home.
The cost to clean and cover the damage was estimated at over a thousand dollars.
Hankins said the department was unsure if most of the graffiti occurred on a single night or on multiple occasions.
Davis was booked into Tuolumne County Jail on suspicion of felony vandalism and a parole violation.
Hankins said the parole violation prompted a no bail hold in Tuolumne County Jail.
Davis was convicted of the November 2013 arson of Sonora Elementary School, Hankins said.
Joseph G. Marsellis, 20, of Sonora, was arrested at the home for an outstanding misdemeanor warrant.
According to Union Democrat records, Davis pushed a burning trash can next to a building, which destroyed it and damaged 15 others. Davis was arrested when he was 17 and tried as an adult. He pleaded guilty to arson and an enhancement of causing over $1 million in damage in May 2014 and sentenced to serve six years in a juvenile facility by Judge Donald Segerstrom.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation public information officer Luis Patino said he was unsure if state law restricted him from releasing information related to a former juvenile inmate.
The California Division of Juvenile Justice, formerly known as the California Youth Authority, is overseen by CDCR.
Hankins said the Sonora Police Department had contacts with Davis going back to 2017.
Davis was also arrested on suspicion of burglary and giving false identification to a peace officer by the Sonora Police Department in February.
Hankins said the department was not sure if Davis had a legitimate connection to the Norteños.
“It’s hard to say. I think he wants to be affiliated. We don't know how much in these cases they are working for the gang or doing gang things,” Hankins said.
Hankins said Davis claims a connection to the gang with tattoos on his hands that say “TC” for Tuolumne County and “N” for Norteños.
On April 30, Daniel Alan Nichols, 24, turned himself in to the Sonora Police Department, claiming he tagged Norteños inspired gang graffiti on at least a dozen locations throughout downtown Sonora about a week earlier while drunk.
Hankins said the police department did not have any information tying the two together as friends or associates.
Hankins said the police department was monitoring the city for possible gang activity following the graffiti cases.
“Hopefully it's an eye opener to anybody who wants to be an active gang member or claims to be an active gang member in the city of Sonora or Tuolumne County. We’re going to come after them with every investigative lead we can,” Hankins said.