Should the defense be concerned about these videos?

In a previous post I covered the allegations against David and Travis Shane Smith as laid out in the charging document. One of those charges are alleged against Travis Shane only, and is related to what the DA claims is a an illegally-modified firearm. Here’s a quick reminder of what that charge states:

On or about and between August 9, 2021 and August 14, 2021…Travis Shane Smith did unlawfully and intentionally convert a firearm into a machine gun or knowingly manufacture a machine gun.

El Dorado County District Attorney Criminal Complaint, Docket #21CR02847

So, what exactly then is a machine gun? California Penal Code 16880 defines a machine gun as “any weapon that shoots, is designed to shoot, or can readily be restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”

A couple things to note here. Many of my followers have been asking whether there was a target shooting ban in place in the El Dorado Nation Forest on or prior to August 14, 2021. According to the EDNF website’s archive of press releases there was a campfire and burn ban in place, but nothing was announced on target shooting. Regardless, if a machinegun, as defined above, was being fired in the EDNF it would have been illegal because the gun itself would have been illegal by default. It’s also important to remember we don’t actually know if the DA is alleging any gun was used in the commission of starting the fire.

All of that said, defense attorney Mark Reichel may have concerns about alleged depictions of Travis Shane Smith firing automatic weapons which may fall within California’s definition of “machinegun.” Much of Travis Shane’s social media footprint has gone dark or been removed, but there is some content which remains. Descriptions are below each video:

Video allegedly depicting Travis Shane Smith firing what could be a “machinegun” as defined by the state of California. There is a caption with the video that reads “The day I hunted them water skipper bugs. They were really swarmin’ that day I tell u what.” It is unclear where the video was recorded.

Video allegedly depicting Travis Shane Smith firing what could be considered a “machinegun” under California’s definition. No sound. Posted March 28, 2019 with the title “Free America.” It is unclear if it was filmed in the State of California. There are several hashtags posted with this first video: #ar15, #sig, #raptorcharginghandle, #magpul, #hoguegrips, and #2a among others.

Video uploaded February 2, 2020 appears to depict Travis Shane Smith allegedly firing some sort of incendiary round from a shotgun. Incendiary rounds are illegal on EDNF land at any time regardless of conditions. It is unclear where this video was taken.

Video uploaded March 9, 2020 appears to depict Travis Shane Smith allegedly firing another incendiary round. It appears to be a different location, not private property, though it is unclear where the video was recorded.
This video was posted as part of a series and appears to depict a scene similar to the one described above but from the vantage point of a drone.

So what can we take from these videos. First, without knowing where these videos were recorded it is not possible to determine whether laws were broken here, nor we do know if any of these weapons are those laid out in the DA’s charging documents. Remember, it is not yet clear if the DA is alleging the weapons in the indictment have any connection to the start of the Caldor Fire.

What is suggestive, though, is it appears Travis Shane Smith is comfortable with weapons that may be considered machine guns under California law. These videos also suggest that Travis Shane is comfortable with firing what can be described as incendiary rounds. which are illegal on EDNF land.

You may have noticed I chose my words carefully in this blog. That’s because I am not a lawyer, nor am I gun expert. I am a blogger and I’ve been covering the Caldor Fire since it’s inception. Still, I recognize my opinion may carry weight, real or perceived, with some of my readers so please understand when I am careful to not elaborate or share my own views. My goal remains the same as it has always: To bring you whatever facts I find, wherever I may find them.

Finally, I recognize the ongoing trauma caused by the Caldor Fire, and I know there will be difficult times ahead. Still, I look forward to following this case with you and the many discussions we will have a long the way. Leave your questions or comments down below, or on whatever social media platform brought you here – it can take time but I always try to get to all of them.

Quick note: I am working on a story regarding the timeline of the initial response to the fire from August 14 through the morning of August 16. If you were in the immediate vicinity where the fire started and would like to share your story, please reach out to me. If needed I am happy to keep you anonymous.

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7 thoughts on “Should the defense be concerned about these videos?

  1. Unbelievable. Those videos show such reckless negligence that they should be locked up whether they had anything to do with Caldor or not. Just to protect the world from them.
    Good work Jericho.

  2. This guy was obviously into guns, and some might have been illegal, but that alone isn’t a connection to the fire. Lots of people are gun aficionados, but most who are locals, know not to do any kind of target practice in the peak of fire season. My question is what we’re these guys doing out in the forest? The weather was hot and dry, and the creeks and rivers people like to visit were barely flowing, so it’s unlikely they were out hiking just enjoying the forest. It is highly likely they were trying out a new gun or a new modification they built. There needs to be more evidence than just the facts that he was into building and shooting guns or that he shot them in the forest though. Being a Grizzly Flats resident, and yes, I lost my home from this fire too, I know that tons of people target practice in the forest. Not during fire season though.

  3. I’m not a lawyer and don’t play one on TV, but:

    “So, what exactly then is a machine gun? California Penal Code 16880 defines a machine gun as “any weapon that shoots, is designed to shoot, or can readily be restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”

    That law is rather open and vague.
    https://www.quora.com/How-easy-is-it-to-convert-a-semi-automatic-rifle-to-an-automatic?share=1

    Basically, most AR style rifles just need ate auto sear put in, it s then fully automatic.

  4. The Caldor fire was certainly a terrible cluster that unnecessarily resulted in a lot of property destruction. If burn to within a quarter mile of my house and burned up several of my friends homes. My house got smokey and still smells that way.
    I appreciate that the author is looking into the negligence exhibited by a lack of timely fire suppression activity.
    These videos do not look look good for the defendants. But as pointed out we don’t know where these videos were taken.
    Certainly damning in the court of public opinion as witnessed by the comments above as well as comments on Facebook.
    The videos do show some Reckless Behavior that we would prefer not happening in our backyard.
    I do particularly like the suggestion that the gun itself started the fire…
    Guns cannot do any damage of any sort or of any kind at any time without human intervention. So it’s really factually incorrect to say the gun started the fire.
    Also with respect to shooting in the woods, it all depends on your back stop! Many people are irresponsible in this respect and that is disturbing. But in and of itself, bullets impacting dirt do not and cannot start a fire! Hitting rocks, Maybe as the U.S. forest service has Illustrated in their so-called “study” from a few years ago. They tried really hard to do so with a number of different calibers and hundreds and hundreds of rounds into steel plates and managed to get one ignition of finely screened oven dried peat moss! This was a 7.62 X 54R steel Core bullet after trying nearly 100 rounds!!! The study did not find that a 223 would start a fire!
    Regardless, Their (unsupported) conclusion was any bullet can start a fire and that is what is being used as justification to ban shooting on National Forest lands at certain times of year.
    Please let’s see the proof and try to stick to the facts.
    If their irresponsible actions with a firearm did in fact Start the Fire, find them guilty! If not they’re still in possession of a so-called machine gun which is a felony as is the silencer charge. And if their actions that day started the fire, punish them mightily!
    But please people, the Fifth Amendment suggest that we be Tried by the facts and due process.

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