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San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy and suspected Mongols gang member Christopher Bingham, with his attorney Jeff G. Moore, during his April 9, 2024 arraignment in San Bernardino Superior Court. (Photo by Milka Soko, Contributing Photographer)
San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy and suspected Mongols gang member Christopher Bingham, with his attorney Jeff G. Moore, during his April 9, 2024 arraignment in San Bernardino Superior Court. (Photo by Milka Soko, Contributing Photographer)
Joe Nelson portrait by Eric Reed. 2023. (Eric Reed/For ɫ̳/SCNG)

Veteran San Bernardino County sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Bingham made one thing clear during an interview Wednesday at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga: he is not a member of the Mongols outlaw motorcycle gang.

“It’s insane. One-hundred percent I am not a Mongols gang member,” said Bingham, 45, who was clad in a green jail jumpsuit and sitting behind a glass partition in the cell block at the jail he has been housed in since his April 4 arrest.

Tuesday, April 9, in San Bernardino Superior Court, the Twentynine Palms man pleaded not guilty to 10 felony charges, including grand theft of a Remington 870 shotgun, allegedly stolen from the Sheriff’s Department, possession of a machine gun, a short-barreled AR-15 assault rifle, two projectile explosive devices and four gun silencers.

He is being held on $240,000 bail and was ordered to return to court April 18 for a preliminary hearing.

In his only interview with the media since his arrest, Bingham confirmed Wednesday he will exercise his right to have a preliminary hearing within 10 days of his arraignment. During such hearings, witnesses are called and evidence is presented before the judge determines if the case should proceed to trial.

If the charges against him stand, Bingham said he plans to demand his right to a speedy trial. “I made it clear I am not waiving any time,” he said.

Each felony charge against Bingham includes a gang enhancement alleging the crimes he  committed were “for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in association with a criminal street gang,” in this case, the Mongols outlaw motorcycle gang.

During a March 23 raid at Bingham’s home, investigators seized from his bedroom a fully patched Mongols vest, referred to as a “cut,” that included a 1% patch with the acronym “MFFM,” which stands for “Mongols Forever Forever Mongols,” as well as Mongols stickers and other insignia located throughout the residence, according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by the Southern California ɫ̳ Group.

Asked about the Mongols paraphernalia seized from his home during the raid and discovered on his body the same day, including a ring emblazoned with a black letter “M” that hung from a chain around his neck, Bingham said, “Things are not what they seem.”

He declined further comment. His attorney, Jeff G. Moore of Riverside, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, but following Bingham’s arraignment on Tuesday, he also teased that the preliminary hearing “should be interesting.”

Bingham began his career with the Sheriff’s Department in 2005 and was working as a correctional deputy at the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino at the time of his arrest.

Before joining the Sheriff’s Department, Bingham served in the U.S. Marine Corps from Sept. 5, 1998, to Sept. 4, 2002. He was a rifleman who rose to the rank of corporal. His service record includes several commendations, including the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons. He last served at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines.

In  2015, Bingham opened O’Three Tactical gun shop on Twentynine Palms Highway, east of Adobe Road, in a small mission-style building attached to a Mexican restaurant with a bell tower. It was marked with a simple block letter sign on the roof that read: “Gun Shop.”

Centered in the Mojave’s remote Morongo Basin near Joshua Tree National Park, O’Three Tactical was popular with Marines and law enforcement officers from as far away as Downey and Newport Beach.

A former employee who asked to not be identified said the shop was licensed to sell high-capacity magazines to law enforcement agencies and also did gun repairs for them.

In late 2019 or early 2020, Bingham came under suspicion by his department for improperly using the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, or CLETS, to conduct criminal background checks. The Sheriff’s Department referred the case to the District Attorney’s Office to consider criminal charges, but county prosecutors rejected the case in January 2020 due to insufficient evidence, district attorney’s spokesperson Jacquelyn Rodriguez said Tuesday.

Rodriguez could not confirm whether Bingham had allegedly misused the CLETS database to conduct criminal background checks on customers at O’Three Tactical.

Bingham shuttered O’Three Tactical on June 23, 2021.

Staff writers Tony Saavedra and Erika I. Ritchie contributed to this report.

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