A California conspiracy theorist has been charged with using a drone to drop bizarre flyers over two NFL games in 2017. The charges come after he allegedly dropped swastika flyers over an Ariana Grande concert and a food festival this month.
Tracy Mapes likes dropping conspiracy literature out of the sky. Mapes, 56, is accused of dumping flyers covered in anti-media scribblings from a drone over two California NFL games on November 26, 2017. Mapes was arrested for the stunts in 2017, but apparently never prosecuted. That changed after he allegedly dropped more flyers over events this month.
Mapes is only being prosecuted for the 2017 incidents, for which he is charged with violation of national defense airspace. But he appears to have taken credit for the newest drone dumps, over an Ariana Grande concert and a food festival fundraiser in Sacramento. He wrote his name on some of the flyers, some of which were identical to flyers in the 2017 drop, which he took credit for in local media at the time.
For all the swastikas on his flyers, Mapes does not appear to be a neo-Nazi. The symbol was part of an admittedly confusing protest of “police state/fascism,” which he linked to an assortment of conspiratorial grievances, many of them aimed at television news.
But a 2014 blog post he wrote advocates violence, ranging from “nail drops” (presumably from drones) to “homicide” against perceived enemies. The post is cited in the case against Mapes.
In that 2017 case, Mapes is accused of violating laws against flying drones or unmanned aircraft within three nautical miles of a stadium with a capacity of at least 30,000 people during events. Mapes knew the rules, authorities allege. In 2016, he registered one of his model aircraft with the Federal Aviation Administration and signed a form pledging to abide by airspace regulations including “I will not fly over stadiums and sports events.”
He broke that rule twice on one 2017 day, feds claim. Mapes, who frequently posts pictures of his drones on Facebook (alongside conspiracy screeds and contextless pictures of wounds and feet) rigged one of his aircraft to contain a pocket that dropped papers with the push of a button. Then he allegedly flew the drones over San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders games and dumped his conspiracy leaflets.
By the time Mapes completed his drop over the Raiders game, law enforcement was onto him. They trailed the drone until it led them to Mapes, who was allegedly wearing a helmet attached to an iPad that controlled the drone.
When police asked whether he had permission to fly a drone over NFL games, Mapes allegedly responded “probably not.”
He was reportedly arrested for the stunt, but does not appear to have been prosecuted. Instead he went on to brag about his flights on Facebook, where he listed himself as “NFL Drone Pilot.”Another Facebook user expressed concern with his conspiracy-driven stunts. “Extremes like this remind me of several bombings and mass shootings,” the person wrote, according to the criminal complaint. “If there were only warning signs.”
“Well?” Mapes responded. “You just got one buddy.”