Guerneville transient charged in filching LGBTQ flags, making threats

Sheriff’s deputies arrested a Guerneville man on a felony terrorism charge last week after he allegedly stole two gay pride flags and threatened to set off pipe bombs in town.

Vincent O’Sullivan, 55, was taken into custody Saturday morning after a confrontation in the Guerneville Safeway where O’Sullivan called a Starbucks employee “a faggot” and said, “You all need to leave,” referring to gay people in Guerneville, said Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Spencer Crum.

O’Sullivan, a local transient, had been under investigation since last month in connection with the theft of rainbow flags in the Guerneville town plaza when Saturday’s arrest occurred, said Crum.

A rainbow flag was stolen on April 26 from the flagpole in the Guerneville town plaza, said a sheriff’s office media report on Saturday’s arrest of O’Sullivan.

A deputy from the Guerneville substation took the report and began an investigation into the theft. Then on May 5 a replacement rainbow flag was again stolen from the plaza area.

“As they were conducting the investigation into the theft of the rainbow flags, sheriff deputies were made aware of threats to manufacture a pipe bomb for the purpose of detonating it at the Guerneville Safeway and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Guerneville substation. The intent was to injure members of the LGBTQ community and deputies,” said Sheriff’s Lt. Eddie Engram in the sheriff’s media statement.

“In the course of the investigation deputies from the Guerneville substation developed probable cause that Vincent Joseph O’Sullivan (55) of Guerneville was the suspect in both cases,” said Engram.

O’Sullivan was arrested Saturday morning on charges of making terrorist threats and theft. He remained in custody at the Sonoma County Jail this week in lieu of $50,000 bail.

Members of Guerneville’s GLBTQ community said they planned to attend O’Sullivan’s first court hearing scheduled for May 15.

The case is now being monitored by GLBTQ groups elsewhere because of the nature of the threats in a normally GLBTQ-friendly town like Guerneville, said Guerneville resident Jeniffer Wertz.

“It’s really important that the LGBT community isn’t complacent about this,” said Wertz. “This kind of thing brings back some old wounds.”

O’Sullivan has been a familiar presence around town for a couple of years, usually living in a battered full-size American pickup truck filled with junk. The truck was frequently parked in the Guerneville park-and-ride commuter lot on Highway 116 and in the Dubrava beach parking area on Highway 116 in Guernewood Park.

“He had a chip on his shoulder,” said Wertz, who is also a founding member of the Guerneville Community Alliance that has been active in homelessness outreach efforts in town.

The gay pride flag flying the town plaza below the American flag “is not meant to alienate anyone, or give anyone special rights,” said Wertz. “It just makes LGBT people feel safe and accepted in a world where we don’t always know that.”

Anyone with additional information on the O’Sullivan case is asked to call the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department at 565-2