Teacher arrested for threatening Public Health Officer Cody over lockdown

A community college instructor with ties to the far-right, anti-government “boogaloo” movement is in jail on suspicion of sending two dozen misogynistic and threatening letters to Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Sara Cody involving the coronavirus pandemic, authorities said today (Sept. 1).

Alan Viarengo, 55, a math teacher in the Gavilan Joint Community College District in Gilroy, was arrested last week and investigators seized 138 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and explosive materials from his home in Gilroy, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said.

Viarengo was charged with felony counts of stalking and threatening a public official. He has not entered a plea. His bail was revoked and he remains in jail.

Some of the guns investigators found in a search of Alan Viarengo’s home in Gilroy. Photos courtesy of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators said the letters became “increasingly aggressive, offensive and threatening” and contained slogans and imagery from the boogaloo movement, a loosely organized, extremist group known for anti-government, anti-police and pro-gun beliefs.

Some people in the movement have protested pandemic-related public health restrictions as a violation of their rights as they carry firearms and warn of violence. The extremist movement uses “boogaloo” — a 1980s movie sequel — as a code word for a second civil war.

Boxes of ammunition found in a search of Alan Viarengo’s home in Gilroy. Photos courtesy of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.

“There is a major difference in expressing disagreement with a public official’s decisions and making criminal threats,” said Jeff Rosen, Santa Clara County’s district attorney. “We will prosecute anyone who crosses that line and tries to terrorize people who are simply doing their jobs.”

Cody, a Palo Alto resident, has been one of the nation’s most visible proponents of lockdown orders, social distancing and wearing masks, which has led to threats and demonstrations at her home.

She previously acknowledged receiving threats, telling the San Jose Mercury News in July, “We’ve all taken more heat than we usually take. I try as much as possible to keep my head down.”

The sheriff’s department said she is receiving 24-hour security.

More guns found in a search of Alan Viarengo’s home in Gilroy. Photos courtesy of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities say the letters were sent from April 8 to July 29. In a June letter, the writer boasted of making a lot of money doing unpermitted haircuts during the pandemic, adding “I’m glad you are getting threats … I posted your residence everywhere I could; I hope someone follows through.”

On July 29, authorities say, detectives tracking Viarengo watched as he drove a black Tesla Model 3 to a mailbox and dropped a letter inside that was addressed to Dr. Cody and mocked her handling of the pandemic. He was arrested a month later.

San Jose attorney Cody Salfen defended Viarengo as a “dedicated father, husband, community activist, respected professor, and volunteer” and blasted prosecutors and law enforcement for heavy-handed tactics.

“At this time we have allegations,” Salfen said. “Allegations are not facts.”

In a message to faculty and students, the superintendent and president of the Gavilan Joint Community College District said the charges are not related to Viarengo’s work as a math teacher.

“As members of the college community, however, we are shocked and saddened by what took place, and will cooperate with law enforcement fully if it is required,” Kathleen A. Rose said in a message provided to The Associated Press.

In the Bay Area, two men affiliated with the “boogaloo” movement were charged earlier this year in the killings of a federal security officer in Oakland and a Santa Cruz County sheriff’s sergeant, authorities said.

Viarengo also “sent a disturbing letter to the widow of Santa Cruz County sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, who was killed in the line of duty on June, 6,” the department said. “The letter contained language mocking the death of Sgt. Gutzwiller and also wishing death upon more law enforcement officers.” — By the Associated Press

14 Comments

  1. Sounds like protected first amendment speech to me, first amendment freedom of assembly and association, and second amendment right to keep and bear arms. Unless there is more, this man should be released immediately.

    “the writer boasted of making a lot of money doing unpermitted haircuts during the pandemic, adding “I’m glad you are getting threats … I posted your residence everywhere I could; I hope someone follows through.” That’s not a threat. Certainly not an imminent threat of harm. BLM/Antifa get away with much worse actual violence and threats in front of homes, businesses, and law enforcement officers.

    “…detectives tracking Viarengo watched as he drove a black Tesla Model 3 to a mailbox and dropped a letter inside that was addressed to Dr. Cody and mocked her handling of the pandemic.” Mocking? Since when is that illegal? Sounds like protected parody or satire.

    “Viarengo also ‘sent a disturbing letter to the widow of Santa Cruz County sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, who was killed in the line of duty on June, 6,’ the department said. ‘The letter contained language mocking the death of Sgt. Gutzwiller and also wishing death upon more law enforcement officers.'” Wishing death upon law enforcement officers without more is not illegal. BLM/Antifa activists express that and more a million times a day.

    If this man is prosecuted for the above statements, then we no longer have first amendment freedoms in this country. Note to Prosecutor Rosen, you can express more than just disagreement. You can express anger and outrage too.

    • First of all, you have to determine the intent of the suspect. Then ask if you would be placed in fear of imminent injury or death by the suspect with those statements? The last answer is clearly no. At most, he wishes some hypothetical person harms Cody. It’s a vague threat at most.

      How many people post stuff like that on President Trump’s twitter account? Do you wish they are all prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law?

  2. This man’s threats are inexcusable and he should be locked up, but I can see how this happened. Dr Cody imposed her order without any public input or comment. The public has no recourse. We can’t take this to the ballot box because she’s not elected. The supervisors seemed pretty exasperated by her, but they can’t fire her. You can’t appeal a health order to a court. Yet the order eliminates the constitutional of freedom of assembly and freedom of religion by literally closing churches. So she’s lucky that this is the only thing that’s happened to her.

    • No, he should not be locked up. This is what the first amendment is for, protecting speech that is controversial, offensive, bigoted, racist, sexist, etc.

      I’m not so sure that the supervisors are tired of Cody, why would they be? The elected reps all seem to be in agreement with lockdowns, masks, distancing, and then some. She’s doing their bidding. And I’m not sure why they can’t fire her? Every public official has a boss.

  3. He has been locked up for expressing his opinion. Clearly a free speech issue. I hope he sues the pants off those who arrested him. Cody ridiculous restrictions prevented my wife from getting timely surgery. My wife suffered and every day I wish Cody nothing but pain and suffering. Will I be arrested next.

  4. Dr. Cody is responsible more death and suffering than this man ever was or ever would have been responsible for. 1 in 4 Americans between the ages of 18-34 has seriously considered suicide within the last 30 days. John Muir medical center got a year’s worth of suicides in a month. That is what Sara Cody has done. That’s what we should be taking about here. She might not have the guns but she’s done all the killing.

    • I don’t know any of these people – this defendant, the tree house owner, etc. I just stand up for liberty and the Constitution regardless of identity. Those are the principles for a free society, though I understand that’s not a popular position these days.

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