Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — An investigation into “swatting” incidents targeting a leader of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles has tied the crimes to a group believed responsible for those incidents and for nearly three dozen other similar crimes, including bomb threats, that occurred across the United States, police said last week.
In September, police went to the residence of Melina Abdullah on what turned out to be a false call of an emergency at the location, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
“In October, LAPD Major Crimes Division received information that a group of online persons operating on the Discord chat platform were responsible for the September 2021 swatting at a residence in the 2100 block of Wellington Road,” police said in a news release. “The ensuing investigation revealed that the same group were responsible for the swatting incidents that targeted the same residence on Aug. 12, 2020 and on Sept. 23, 2021.
“Additionally, 30 other bomb threats and swatting incidents across the United States have been linked to this group,” police said. “Additional cases and digital evidence are still being collected as the investigation continues. Targets from these incidents involve other online persons, video gamers, activists, schools, airports, houses of worship, entertainment venues and memorial parks dating back to July 2020.”
According to police, the main suspects in the series of crimes are “three juveniles between the ages of 13 and 16.”
“Two of our suspects reside in Medina, Ohio and Yonkers, N.Y., while our main subject has been identified as a U.S. citizen currently living overseas in the country of Cyprus,” police said.
Police said the suspects used “advanced software, overseas servers and privacy tools to hide their electronic trail.”
“Major Crimes Division Detectives coordinated with the FBI and local law enforcement agencies in Yonkers, New York, Harford County, Maryland, and Medina, Ohio to identify the individuals responsible and immediately disrupted their illegal activities,” police said.
Simultaneous search and arrest warrants were served in Yonkers, N.Y. and Medina, Ohio Nov. 9, police said. An LAPD spokesman declined to say if any of the suspects ware taken into custody.
“Additional witnesses were interviewed in Maryland,” police said. “Numerous electronic devices were also seized and are pending forensic analysis by the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service.
“Some of the language used in the swatting incidents and a review of the subjects’ online activities reflect a racial motivation theme to a number of these swatting attacks,” police said. “Major Crimes Division [detectives] will be presenting the case against all three suspects to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for filing consideration for criminal conspiracy and for creating a false emergency. We will be requesting consideration for a hate-crime enhancement.”
The LAPD sent a patrol car and supervisor to Abdullah’s home to check on her following the most recent incident, LAPD Capt. Stacy Spell told the Los Angeles Times.
Spell told the Times officers “were able to determine that she was not in any danger” after a neighbor was able to contact Abdullah and notify her that police were at her door.
The responding officers ultimately determined the report was a false emergency call for service intended to elicit a large police response to the location.
Abdullah has filed a lawsuit alleging the LAPD acted improperly after the August 2020 swatting incident.