Case closed after investigation uncovers “no evidence” of 4th of July hate crime

COTTONWOOD — After an exhaustive, nearly two-month investigation – during which more than two dozen witnesses were interviewed and numerous candid videos and photos were uncovered and reviewed – Shasta County Sheriff’s and Shasta County District Attorney’s officials have determined that an incident that led to a Fourth of July party-goer sustaining major head and neck injuries was not the result of a hate crime.

Despite allegations that racism played a part in the man’s severe injury, sheriff’s officials yesterday announced that “no criminal conduct was discovered during the course of the investigation” and the case is now considered closed.

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Shasta County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit began investigating the alleged hate crime after 24-year-old, Gregory Kelso was taken to Mercy Medical Center with head and neck injuries he sustained during a Fourth of July party, Shasta County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit Cpt. Pat Kropholler has since reported. The get together was held at a residence on Linda Ln. in the unincorporated community of Cottonwood, south of Redding.

During the Sheriff’s initial investigation, witnesses told investigating officials that Kelso consumed alcoholic beverages throughout the day.

In video taken at the scene while Kelso was being treated by medical personnel, the injured man can be heard telling paramedics he had consumed four piña coladas as well as “Molly” also known as MDMA or “Ecstasy”.

Witnesses said Kelso was extremely intoxicated, had been vomiting, and had already knocked over and broken several items, when he was injured by other party-goers who were trying to restrain him and keep him from entering the residence.

“At one point during the evening, Kelso’s friends, Casey Mathews and Christopher Schargus, both of Redding CA, attempted to take him outside of the residence due to him being extremely intoxicated, spilling drinks and falling down,” Kropholler explained.

“Kelso had already vomited and knocked things over while he was in the back yard and the concern was he might vomit inside the residence,” Kropholler continued. “Once outside, Kelso tried to go back into the residence several times. Casey Mathews and Christopher Schargus tried to restrain Kelso to keep him out of the residence.”

“While being restrained, Kelso and Christopher Schargus fell forward onto the grass in the backyard of the residence,” which caused the head and neck injuries Kelso sustained, according to the Cpt.

Authorities say Kelso was left laying injured and unable to move on the grass for “approximately 20 to 30 minutes,” because other party-goers initially believed that he was unable to get up due to his high level of intoxication.

According to Kropholler, once the other party-goers realized Kelso was possibly injured, they summoned medical personnel to the scene, at which time the injured man was transported to the hospital for further evaluation and treatment.

As deputies began investigating the incident, they learned that some of Kelso’s family and friends were claiming through social media that the incident was race related and a hate crime. The allegations created a media firestorm and placed the Sheriff’s investigation – and the incident that led to it – under a microscope.

However, despite claims that the Sheriff’s Department was refusing to properly investigate the incident as a hate crime, according to Kropholler detectives assigned to Shasta County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit conducted a thorough and exhaustive investigation, interviewing nearly 30 witnesses regarding the events that took place during the party. 

“All witnesses indicated there were no racial or derogatory comments made during the party,” the Cpt. said in yesterday’s announcement. “All witnesses stated there was no fight, argument or other type of animosity between anyone during the party.”

Although Kelso was “never considered to be the subject of a criminal investigation from the Sheriff’s Office perspective, which would require him to have legal representation,” according to Kropholler, the injured man initially refused to be interviewed. Deputies and detectives were repeatedly turned away by family members and “were unsuccessful due to family referring the Sheriff’s Office to an attorney.”

When detectives were finally able to make contact with Kelso to be interviewed, “his statement was inconsistent with all other statements taken from other party-goers,” according to Kropholler; who also said Kelso admitted “there were no racial slurs made during the party.”

As the investigation continued, detectives located several candid photos and videos of Kelso at the party appearing to be enjoying himself along with the other party-goers, all of which directly contradicted Kelso’s claims of racism and his family’s allegations that his injuries were the result of a hate crime.

At the conclusion of their investigation, detectives determined that based upon the numerous witness statements, photos and videos taken at the party, and other evidence collected, “there was no criminal intent on the part of Casey Mathews and Christopher Schargus,”according to Kropholler.

“There has been no evidence to substantiate any criminal charge against any of the involved parties at this time and Kelso’s injuries were a result of an accident, not that of a deliberate act to injure him,” Kropholler continued. “There is also no evidence that this incident was fueled by any racial biases.”

Since concluding their investigation, detectives have consulted with the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office, “presenting all the information, facts and the findings of the investigation,” according to the Cpt.; who said, “The District Attorney’s Office has agreed with the finding that no criminal conduct was discovered during the course of the investigation.”

Although officials now consider their investigation concluded and the case closed, Kropholler said that if any future information or evidence is discovered, the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit will conduct appropriate follow up and that the case could be reopened if necessary.

The video refered to in this article can be seen at www.ShastaSheriff.org – Press Release section. (BEST VIEWED ON DESKTOP PC)


Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 48, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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