A Huntington Beach man pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he threatened to carry out a mass shooting at the Long Beach Marriott hotel where he worked, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
Rodolfo Montoya, 37, faces four felony charges: two counts of criminal threats, one count of dissuading a witness by force or threat, and one count of possession of an assault weapon, a Colt AR-15 rifle, according to the district attorney’s office.
If convicted, he could be sentenced to more than five years in state prison.
Some Huntington Beach neighbors said Thursday that Montoya generally kept to himself. They said he lived in a motor home in an alley behind a cluster of industrial businesses along Jacquelyn Lane. On Thursday, the motor home was surrounded by chain-link fencing covered in white tarps, and yellow police tape was draped along the vehicle’s door.
Long Beach police said they foiled a possible mass shooting at the hotel when they arrested Montoya at his home Tuesday. Officers seized multiple high-powered firearms, including an assault rifle, 38 high-capacity magazines and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, according to investigators.
A mechanic who declined to give his name said in Spanish on Thursday that he saw undercover police enter the alley and remove weaponry from Montoya’s home. The man said he was shocked to learn the news about his friend. He said Montoya had lived there for about three years.
“He was normal,” the man said. “We would talk about his car and how he was fixing it.”
Another man who works for a body shop next to the motor home said he would occasionally see Montoya on his way to work and say hello. He confirmed that Montoya had lived there for years.
Michael Rodriguez Vera, an employee at Surf City Auto Machinery across the street from the alley, said he saw about eight undercover police officers head into the driveway while he was at lunch Tuesday with co-workers. He also noticed a black unmarked car parked for hours nearby, he said.
“It’s kind of crazy that I work here and this person [was] so close,” he said.
Others who live and work near Jacquelyn Lane described the neighborhood as generally quiet
“People are respectful here,” said business owner Marilyn Killian.
According to Long Beach police, Montoya told a co-worker at the hotel Monday that he planned to go to work and shoot everybody he saw. Montoya was angry about a human resources issue, investigators said.
The co-worker notified police, and officers took Montoya into custody the following day.
Investigators weren’t sure how Montoya obtained the weapons. They said a preliminary investigation indicated he did not have a criminal history that would prevent him from legally owning firearms, but added that, in most cases, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines were illegal for anyone to possess in California.
Imran Ahmed, general manager of the Long Beach Marriott, said in a statement Thursday that the hotel has increased security in and around the facility and that business has resumed as usual.
“We strive to maintain a peaceful hotel and community in Long Beach, and ... safety and security is paramount,” he said.
Montoya, who was being held Thursday with bail set at $500,000, is scheduled to return to court Aug. 30.
Times Community News staff writer Julia Sclafani and Los Angeles Times staff writer Alex Wigglesworth contributed to this report.