At a press conference Tuesday, Sheriff Rupf and Capt. Daniel Terry announced the arrest of Vess, following a months-long investigation of January break-ins at both the Sheriff's Field Operations Bureau in Martinez and the Bay Station office in Richmond. He is also believed to be responsible for the December break-in at the Martinez CHP station.
Vess was already being held at the Martinez Detention Center on unrelated burglary charges when Sheriff's Department investigators started looking into his potential involvement in the weapons thefts. Three search warrants were executed April 14 at the suspect's home in Montalvin Manor and two other locations. In the searches, officers recovered $10,000 to $15,000 in stolen weapons and other equipment.
Listed among the items recovered were several assault rifles, many with modified stocks and homemade silencers; 5,000 rounds of ammunition; ballistic vests and helmets and night vision goggles. Several burglary tools were recovered in the search as well. There were weapons or pieces of weapons everywhere in the house, Terry said.
Of equal concern were fake law enforcement badges and magnetic stickers with a fictitious "Fugitive Recovery Agent" emblem. Terry said Vess also had outfitted his pickup truck with police lights and sirens.
"Where he was going with all of this is anybody's guess," Terry said. "We were able to prevent a horrific act before it took place."
Police described Vess' home as dilapidated, with the windows boarded up. He said the walls of the home were riddled with bullet holes. There was evidence that he used his pickup truck for target practice and tested out weapons on ballistic vests and helmets.
Among the items recovered from the home was a canister filled with black powder from several empty shotgun shell casings. Terry said that no documents or plans were found at the home but the sheer number of weapons coupled with the black powder indicate that Vess may have had violent intentions.
"With the tools of warfare that he had and a vehicle outfitted to stop somebody, do the math on that," he stated.
Rupf didn't mince words regarding the seriousness of the arrest and the weapons recovered.
"You don't have to go back many hours to read news accounts where this profile is discovered after some horrendous act. I don't believe it's hyperbole to describe this guy as a potential domestic terrorist," he said.
In addition to the burglary charges he is currently facing, Vess could see additional charges of burglary, possession of stolen goods and possession of an assault weapon. Rupf said they will be talking to federal law enforcement to seek stronger charges against Vess.
He said he also hopes that the department's success in this arrest will give residents the impetus to report suspicious incidents.
"What I do know," he said, "is that there are other knuckleheads like that out in the community and all of us should be interested in putting some light on them before they can hurt us."