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Alleged killer of Natomas librarian had history of threats toward librarians

Watch the arraignment of man accused of shooting of Natomas librarian

Cory Thornhill, deputy public defender of Sacramento County, stands in front of Ronald Seay, the accused shooter of 41-year-old librarian Amber Clark, during an an arraignment at Sacramento County Main Jail on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018.
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Cory Thornhill, deputy public defender of Sacramento County, stands in front of Ronald Seay, the accused shooter of 41-year-old librarian Amber Clark, during an an arraignment at Sacramento County Main Jail on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018.

Ronald Seay, the man accused in the deadly ambush shooting of a Natomas librarian last week, had been arrested multiple times for causing disturbances in libraries in the St. Louis area before moving to Sacramento this fall, Missouri officials told The Sacramento Bee.

Seay had been barred from at least two St. Louis area libraries, had threatened librarians and had a warrant out for his arrest, according to interviews with Missouri law enforcement and library administrators.

Seay, 56, remains held without bail in Sacramento County custody following his arraignment Friday in the point-blank killing of library supervisor Amber Clark, 41, as she sat in her car in the parking lot of the North Natomas Public Library.

Scott Bonner, director of Ferguson (Mo.) Public Library near St. Louis said Seay threatened him repeatedly after a confrontation at the library on Aug. 23.

“He was here in the library and couldn’t find his wallet. He decided that staff had stolen it,” Bonner said Monday. Bonner said Seay went from library employee to employee demanding someone turn over the wallet before Bonner became aware and intervened.

Bonner said he relied on his training from an earlier career as a mental health professional working in secure mental health facilities to calm Seay.

“I tried to deescalate him and move him out the door. It took a long time to calm him down,” Bonner said.

Seay ultimately left the library, but called throughout the day with threats, some aimed at Bonner.

One was a message for Bonner that “‘the wallet had better rematerialize’ or he’s coming after me. We took that (threat) seriously,” he said.

Bonner called police to report the threat, even as Seay continued to call. A police officer was at the library when a female employee took another call from Seay that day, Bonner said. Bonner said the officer motioned to the employee to hand him the receiver. The officer identified himself and Seay hung up.

Bonner wrote a letter to Seay banning him from the library.

Seay was arrested weeks later on Sept. 6 on suspicion of trespassing and causing a disturbance at another public library, this time in Brentwood, Mo., near St. Louis, said Brentwood Chief of Police Joseph Speiss. Seay failed to appear for his court date and has a warrant out for his arrest.

In that incident, library staff called 911 after Seay, who had a puppy with him, refused to leave the library, Speiss said. Officers arrived, but Seay continued his refusals and was arrested. Speiss said Seay told officers, “I don’t care, I’m coming back.”

Speiss said a check of his criminal history showed Seay had been arrested “multiple times” for causing the same kinds of disturbances at other libraries in the St. Louis area.

“He was clearly showing a pattern,” Speiss said.

Seay also has a restraining order against him in Missouri in what is listed in court records as an “adult abuse” case.

Sometime in recent months, Seay moved to Sacramento, living a few miles from the North Natomas library, where he continued his pattern of aggressive behavior in libraries.

Library staff in Sacramento issued a stay-away order Oct. 13 after Seay caused a disturbance at the North Natomas branch. It is unclear whether Seay and Clark had an exchange during the incident that led to him being barred.

Clark was in her car outside the library the evening of Dec. 11 when a man wearing a mask and teal-colored clothes shot her, then fled in a gray-colored sedan with out-of-state plates, according to police and scanner audio obtained through online archive Broadcastify.com. Clark was struck in the head and face.

Seay was arrested Dec. 12 in Natomas after a brief, slow-speed chase. During the investigation, police said they had recovered guns in Seay’s possession, but did not say if the handgun used to kill Clark was among them.

Seay has been charged with first-degree murder with the special circumstance of lying in wait. He returns to Sacramento Superior Court on Dec. 27 for a bail review.

Clark was remembered by Sacramento Public Library Director Rivkah Sass as “fierce” and an “amazing librarian.”

Jeanette Piquet, director of the Richmond Heights Memorial Library, part of the consortium that includes Brentwood Public Library said “we’re very shocked and feel very guilty about being relieved it wasn’t here.”

Bonner took to Twitter in the days after Clark’s killing to reflect on the senseless crime and how it could just as easily have happened at his library.

“This tragedy is hitting me hard today, in part because I know this guy,” Bonner posted as part of a thread Dec. 14, the day Seay was arraigned in Sacramento Superior Court. “He was in Ferguson recently, making threats. This could’ve been any of us.”

On Monday, he wondered if “things might have gone worse if I was a woman.

“We deal with problematic behavior all the time — it’s not the first time we’ve been threatened,” said Bonner. “But the idea that one of these could turn into such a horrific tragedy is terrifying.”

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