Anti-Police, Criminal Justice Professor Accused of Arson Spree Along the Edges of Large California Forest Fire

An anti-police criminal justice professor is accused of an arson spree that took place along the edges of one of the largest recorded forest fires in California history.

Gary Maynard, 47, has denied the allegations against him and according to court filings, he screamed at police in the Lassen County Jail, “I’m going to kill you, f—king pig! I told those f—kers I didn’t start any of those fires!”

Maynard is believed to have worked at a number of colleges in California, including Santa Clara University and Sonoma State University, where a Dr. Gary Maynard was listed as a lecturer in criminal justice studies specializing in criminal justice, cults and deviant behavior, prior to his removal from the website after it was reported.

According to Sonoma State spokeswoman Julia Gonzalez, Maynard is no longer with the university.

In an email, Gonzalez explained, “He was a part-time lecturer in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. He was employed with Sonoma State University in Fall 2020, but did not have an appointment for Spring 2021.”

“Mr. Maynard was contracted to fill in for a faculty member who was on leave. He taught two seminars in Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies in Fall 2020,” Gonzalez added.

Santa Clara confirmed that Maynard had worked there, as well, and that in an emailed statement wrote that he “Was an adjunct faculty member in the sociology department at Santa Clara University from September 2019 to December 2020.”

The evidence against Maynard is pretty strong, as the Sacramento Bee detailed:

According to court filings, Maynard first came to the attention of authorities after the Cascade Fire was reported at 9:45 a.m. on July 20 on the western slopes of Mount Shasta.

Mountain bikers who reported the fire and tried to help put it out helped keep the blaze to about 100 to 200 acres in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, court papers say.

U.S. Forest Service investigator Brian Murphy responded to the scene and found a man later identified as Maynard underneath a black Kia Soul that had its front wheels stuck in a ditch and its undercarriage centered on a boulder, court papers say.

“Murphy introduced himself as an official with the Forest Service and requested the man’s name,” court papers say. “This man did not come out from under the vehicle and did not identify himself, but instead stayed under the vehicle and mumbled words that (investigator) Murphy could not understand.

“(Investigator) Murphy advised this man that he would like to ask him a few questions. The man quit digging and stood up. … Murphy began to ask questions about the nearby fire to which this man responded that he did not know anything about any fires.”

The man asked Murphy to help tow his vehicle out, but when Murphy said he could not do that the man became “uncooperative and agitated” and crawled back under the Kia, court papers say.

During the encounter, the man said he was a professor and Forest Service investigators subsequently found online profiles for Maynard “at various universities in California,” court papers say.

A second vehicle parked near that spot included a witness who later told authorities that the driver of the Kia seemed angry, at one point displayed a large knife and was “mumbling a lot and having bipolar-like behavior,” an affidavit from U.S. Forest Service Special Agent Tyler Bolen says.

A second fire erupted the next day at 2:50 a.m. on Mount Shasta near the Everitt Memorial Highway, and investigators later found tire tracks similar to those made by the Kia, court papers say.

Investigators tracked Maynard’s address to San Jose, where police said a concerned citizen called them in October 2020 “with concerns about their colleague, Maynard, who worked as a professor at Santa Clara University,” court papers say.

“This concerned citizen told officers that Maynard had told her he was suffering from anxiety, depression, split personality, and that he wanted to kill himself,” the affidavit says. “This concerned citizen said that Maynard had moved out and was possibly living somewhere out of his vehicle.”

Authorities then began tracking Maynard’s movements through his electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card used for public assistance, and through store video recordings, court papers say, and began looking at earlier fires.

They also obtained cellphone search warrants that were still sealed Tuesday, as well as a warrant allowing a vehicle tracker to be placed on Maynard’s Kia, court papers say. Using that, investigators tracked his movements for hundreds of miles, including to the area where the Ranch Fire and Conard Fire erupted Saturday in the Lassen National Forest, court papers say.

“It appeared that Maynard was in the midst of an arson-setting spree,” court papers say.

Maynard was arrested that day inside the emergency closure area forced by the Dixie Fire, court papers say.

“He entered the evacuation zone and began setting fires behind the first responders fighting the Dixie Fire,” Anderson wrote in his detention memo. “In addition to the danger of enlarging the Dixie fire and threatening more lives and property, this increased the danger to the first responders.”

Maynard faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine after being charged in a criminal complaint with willfully setting the Ranch Fire in Lassen County on Saturday and he has been ordered to remain in custody due to being a threat to the community.