It all started when I unclaimed the device and tried to connect it to a new wifi signal.
First the particle smart phone app would fail to connect unless I held down the setup button for 5 seconds and let the photon restart in setup mode. Then when it connected it would fail at verifying device ownership.
so I followed two steps listed here: https://docs.particle.io/support/troubleshooting/common-issues/photon/
I did the manual firmware upgrade and the Public Key Reset. Now the photon flashes red whenever it runs or whenever i try to run the setup procedure.