27-year-old Christopher Viatafa of Palo Alto, CA, searched online for his name recently and got quite a surprise. The young man from Northern California found his name on Google and then turned himself in. He was reportedly shocked, then felt guilty, and is described by law enforcement personnel as having made the right decision.
Viatafa’s name was on Northern California’s Most Wanted website. The incident he was wanted for occurred in August, 2013, when the local attended a private party at a San Leandro Senior Center. He was standing in a group with some other people and reportedly got into an altercation. He drew his gun and shot several rounds into the ground within a close proximity of the other party-goers. When he was subsequently thrown out of the party, he allegedly shot several more rounds towards the building, or possibly into the air. Police have not commented on whether or not anyone was injured, but the former fugitive was charged with “assault with a deadly weapon.”
The Most Wanted website now lists Viatafa as a “captured fugitive,” regardless of the fact that he turned himself in. The site was a joint venture between Northern California law enforcement, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, and was online as of last December. It represents the area from Monterey County to the border with Oregon. No mention is made as to why it took Viatafa finding himself on Google for him to be apprehended, and why the man had not been found by police. No indication was made that he had been either in hiding or that he had been difficult to find.
The Most Wanted website currently lists 39 wanted fugitives, most of whom are men and three of whom escaped from Alcatraz Prison over 50 years ago. The former inmates spent months making ventilation holes at the back of their cells bigger. They used cardboard painted to make it look like the wall to cover them up during the day when they were not working, and also had dummy heads to leave in their beds at night while they were.
After their escape, a packet of photos and papers were found and two life preservers were found over a period of ten days. A report was made of a body seen from afar floating face down wearing clothing in prison colors, but no body was ever recovered. Over the years there have been many reports of sightings and even reports over the telephone that the caller was himself one of the escapees living in a different country, but none of the reports ever led to anything legitimate. Law enforcement continues to get one or two “leads” a month on this case more than half a century old.
Others on the site briefly shared with Christopher Viatafa are wanted for crimes from possession with the intent to distribute narcotics to attempted assault, sexual assault and murder, as well as a case of copyright infringement and counterfeiting. It is certain that Viatafa committed an illegal and potentially dangerous act, but it is unclear how the Northern California Most Wanted selects exactly who one might find (having committed what crime) when a name is Googled.
By Julie Mahfood
Follow Julie Mahfood on Twitter @Julie11153717