California man accused of posting threatening videos pleads not guilty to weapons charges
(CNN) -- A California man accused of posting online videos that appear to threaten gun violence pleaded not guilty Monday to weapons and child endangerment charges.
Steven Homoki, 30, was arrested after the San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force received a report of "distressing YouTube videos threatening firearm violence," according to a police news release.
On Monday, prosecutors outlined the case against him in San Diego Superior Court, noting that the videos show him inside a hotel room and aiming a handgun and an assault-style rifle at unsuspecting pedestrians outside, and saying "boom" as he pretends to fire the weapon.
He is charged with three counts of possession of an assault weapon and three counts of child abuse. The abuse charges were lodged because he had unsecured guns in the home where children were present, said Wendy Patrick, a deputy district attorney in the San Diego County District Attorney's Office. Homoki's three minor children lived in the home, Patrick said.
Homoki's bail was set $1 million by Judge Joseph Brannigan, who said "there's an obvious danger to the community." Homoki is expected back in court for a status conference hearing on December 18.
CNN has reached out to the public defender assigned to Homoki but has not heard back.
Arrest came after a tip about online videos
The San Diego Police Joint Terrorism Task Force received a tip on December 2 about online videos in which Homoki threatened gun violence, according to the release. The tip was sent in by an anonymous person who knew Homoki from Discord, an online platform designed for video gaming communities to communicate via a chat channel, according to the search warrant for his residence.
The anonymous tipster said they feared Homoki was planning something because he had becoming less stable and said, "almost guarantee if he ... is confronted while at home, he will open fire on Federal Agents or police," according to the search warrant.
Authorities linked the videos to Homoki, and he was arrested without incident at his Spring Valley, California, home on December 5 when authorities executed a search warrant of his residence, the release said.
The search warrant said Homoki had 14 firearms registered in California that were purchased between February 2018 and May 2019.
According to the warrant, 12 rifles and rifle parts, two semi-automatic handguns and one revolver were found in the search of Homoki's home, car and a shed at his house. Two of the rifles were AR-15 style rifle, one with a 60-round drum magazine.
Patrick said three of the rifles had been modified since their purchase in a manner that made them illegal, but declined to say what modifications had been made.
Multiple high-capacity magazines were found in the house, a vehicle and the shed, and the three handguns were found in a bag in the house's master bedroom, according to the warrant.
The warrant references two videos posted to a YouTube channel under the screen name of "Steven Anderson" in which someone in a San Diego hotel appears to be pointing weapons at pedestrians outside the hotel.
"The video shows the interior of the hotel room and the subject again points the handgun out the window and tracks a pedestrian crossing the street with the firearm and 'dry fires' at the pedestrian. He then switches to one of the assault style rifles and again points it out the window and dry fires," the warrant states. "He then gets the other assault style rifle and again dry fires out the window at pedestrians."
In an interview with San Diego TV station KFMB, Homoki denied any plans for a mass shooting or act of terrorism, saying the videos were purely for his own private entertainment.
"It was a curiosity, a miniature art project for myself," he said from jail. "Just to kinda get into a mindset and just kind of booked it out for a night in a hotel, I just wanted to relax maybe do something a little bit fun and different."
Suspect: Videos 'blown out of proportion'
Homoki said the videos "got blown out of proportion" but conceded, "Obviously, looking back, it looks like if anybody else were to see it, it doesn't look good."
He said he did not mean to cause anyone any harm.
"Hopefully, they can see it the way I do, that I do not wish to cause harm to anybody, this is not an act of terrorism at all," he said.
Lt. Shawn Takeuchi with the San Diego Police Department said the tip from the community was crucial.
"This arrest is an example of a community member coming forward with information that posed an immediate threat to San Diegans," Takeuchi told KFMB. "The San Diego Police Department would like to thank the community for their shared efforts to keep everyone safe."
Scott Brunner, the head of the FBI's San Diego office, called the arrest an "extraordinary accomplishment" and commended the task force for their quick work in locating and apprehending Homoki.
"The extraordinarily swift investigative efforts put forth by the dedicated Agents and Officers of the San Diego JTTF quickly identified, located and arrested Mr. Homoki, preventing further incident," Brunner said in a statement. "Just three days ago Mr. Homoki was an unknown poster of disturbing videos and is now behind bars, his threats neutralized."
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