A Santa Maria man was arrested over the weekend on suspicion of threatening the lives of Santa Maria police officers and their families, including targeting and stalking officers’ homes, police said.
The threat came to light on Friday at approximately 9:46 p.m., when the Santa Maria Police Department received information regarding Santa Maria Police officers and officers’ family members being threatened via social media posts, Sgt. Daniel Rios said in a police department news brief posted online Saturday.
Officers initiated an investigation, and a suspect, Albert Varelas, 34, was identified, Sgt. Rios said. Mr. Varelas’ social media account was also located.
During the initial investigation, several more social media posts allegedly were made by Mr. Varelas and observed by officers in real time involving further threats against Santa Maria police officers and family members, Sgt. Rios said.
Mr. Varelas’ threats allegedly referenced previous police contact and current threats to “kill” officers and family members, Sgt. Rios said.
Further investigation confirmed that Mr. Varelas was allegedly targeting and stalking officers’ homes in the Santa Maria area, Sgt. Rios said.
Officers obtained an arrest warrant for Mr. Varelas on suspicion of making criminal threats but were unable to locate him.
That changed about 7:30 a.m. Saturday when the Santa Maria Police Detective Bureau took over the investigation.
Detectives were able to track the suspect to a location in the Orcutt area near Foster Road and Hummel Drive.
At about 2:20 p.m. Saturday, Santa Maria police detectives, with assistance from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Division and the Santa Maria Police Patrol Division, were able to safely locate and arrest Mr. Varelas without incident, police said.
He was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail on the criminal threats warrant, and he is being held there on $250,000 bail.
Investigators are recommending that the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office review the case for related stalking charges.
Anyone with information related to this investigation is encouraged to contact SMPD Detective Eduardo Servin at 805-928-3781, ext. 1362, or the SMPD Communications Center at 805-928 -3781, ext. 2277.
Sgt. Rios did not return the News-Press’ phone calls Monday or Tuesday seeking comment on a possible motive for Mr. Varelas’ alleged online threats.