Right-Wing Militia Aims to Take Over Shasta County Government

Over a decade ago, reportedly in response to a series of robberies, a group of Shasta County residents formed the local Cottonwood militia. Today, the group is a growing political force that provides social services like boys’ camps and scholarships and has its own successful media operation. And if it succeeds in its latest endeavor, Shasta County could have a majority government backed by armed, right-wing extremists.

The recall effort against three Shasta County supervisors — led by the militia and its member Carlos Zapata — has already spilled over into violence. That’s not surprising, given Cottonwood and Zapata’s history. Zapata, a 42-year-old Marine Corps combat veteran, first made a name for himself by appearing to threaten violence over pandemic health restrictions at a Board of Supervisors meeting.

“It’s not going to be peaceful much longer,” he warned. “Good citizens are going to turn into real concerned and revolutionary citizens real soon.”

Members of the militia have attended Black Lives Matter rallies carrying concealed weapons. Zapata has claimed the group collects “intelligence” and has issued ominous warnings against anyone who ‘snitches’ on businesses that flout public health orders.

“We know where you live. We know who your family is. We know your dog’s name,” Zapata says. “So if you think for one second that we are going to let you spy on us without us doing our due diligence and spying on you, you are absolutely wrong.”

Some residents accused by the militia of tipping off authorities say they’ve been harassed and fear for their safety. Local law enforcement, including the sheriff, have been accused of being in cahoots with the group — an allegation they deny. Raucous county meetings coupled with the militia’s growing presence in civil society has led one local journalist to compare the situation to Lord of the Flies.

The three supervisors being targeted for recall — Leonard Moty, Mary Rickert, and Joe Chimenti — are all Republicans themselves, but they’ve been deemed not loyal enough to the cause.

“Their agenda is, ‘If you don’t agree with us then we have to get rid of you,’” said Moty, one of the group’s targets. “I am concerned for individuals in our community.”

Experts would say that concern is warranted. The events in Shasta County are part of a broader rise in domestic extremism that is gripping parts of small town America.

Read more about the political storm brewing in the North State here.


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