San Joaquin County
District Attorney's Office
OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY 222 E. Weber Ave., Room 202, Stockton, CA
P. O. Box 990, Stockton, CA 95201
T (209) 468-2400 | F (209) 465-0371
TORI VERBER SALAZAR District Attorney Scott A. Fichtner Assistant District Attorney Kristine M. Reed Assistant District Attorney James Bojko Chief Investigator
News from the Office of District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar
For Immediate Release
March 2, 2021
CONTACT: Angela Hayes, Deputy District Attorney
T: (209) 468-2400 | E:

Two Men Stockpiling Explosive Materials Plead Guilty

Stockton - District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar announced that defendants James Towles, age 51, and Russell Altheide, age 65, pled guilty yesterday before the Honorable Ronald Northup to the following charges :

  • James Towles pled to two felony counts of Penal Code §18715(a), Reckless Possession of Explosive Device and one count of Misdemeanor Vehicle Code §20001, Hit and Run. He was sentenced to 6 years as a split term, which means he will serve 3 years in County Jail and 3 years on Community Supervision. Under Assembly Bill 109, also known as the California Criminal Justice Realignment Act of 2011 - these charges are no longer State Prison eligible.
  • Russell Altheide pled guilty to one count of Penal Code §18720, Felony Possession of Ingredients to Make a Bomb. He was sentenced to five months in the county jail and two years of probation.

"This is a great example of the importance of law enforcement partnerships," said District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. "The immediate apprehension of the suspect and the ensuing investigation by the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department along with the technical skills of the San Joaquin County Bomb Squad enabled Deputy District Attorney Kelly McDaniel to successfully and swiftly bring this case to resolution. These partnerships provide for the safety of the residents of this community."

According to authorities, San Joaquin County Sheriff's deputies initiated a traffic stop on defendant James Towles on Sunday, January 9, 2021, in connection with an investigation into an explosive known as an "m-device", which had been detonated and thrown at the outside of HisWay Church while a celebration of life was occurring inside. Fortunately, no one was injured as a result, but the church did sustain minor damage. The defendant led deputies on a chase and he ultimately crashed the vehicle. While deputies were searching Towles' car, they found what appeared to be an explosive device. The bomb squad was called to disarm the device. James Towles was taken into custody.

On January 10, 2021, authorities searched a home allegedly connected to the defendant and substances used to manufacture explosive devices were found. The house belonged to Russell Altheide. On January 11, 2021, authorities, including the bomb squad, searched a storage unit to determine if there existed further explosive devices. None were found. All of the explosive materials were confiscated and the properties were rendered safe. Thank you for a job well done to our law enforcement partners at the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office.