Police are investigating a possible “swatting” incident at the home of Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and professor of Pan-African studies at Cal State L.A.
Swatting refers to a prank in which someone makes a bogus emergency call designed to get law enforcement — typically a SWAT team — to go to someone’s home.
On Wednesday morning, Abdullah livestreamed officers setting up around her home on Instagram. The video is no longer online, but according to the Los Angeles Times, officers were heard repeating Abdullah’s address and saying, “Come out with your hands up.”
“I don’t know why they are here,” she said, noting that she was home with her children. “They have guns pointed at my house.”
Los Angeles Police Department Spokesperson Josh Rubenstein told the Times the incident was likely a “swatting,” though the department’s SWAT team did not respond. Instead, Wilshire Division officers responded to a call made on Abdullah’s block.
In the video, the officers tell Abdullah that the caller claimed a man was holding hostages inside and wanted one million dollars or he’d kill them in an hour. There apparently was no such man.
This morning, Abdullah addressed the media in her campaign for her appointment as dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at Cal State L.A. According to LAist, Abdullah referenced the incident saying, “We don’t even believe that [the LAPD] got that call. We believe it’s yet another tactic that’s being used to block us from ushering in Black freedom and, by extension, freedom for all people.”
“I don’t buy [the LAPD’s] story but will see what they come up with,” Abdullah wrote in a text message to the Times.
Recently, David Lacey, the husband of L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, was charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault for allegedly pointing a gun at BLM Los Angeles protesters, including Abdullah, when they came to the couple’s home in March.
Councilmember Herb Wesson took to Twitter earlier today to call for an “immediate investigation” into the alleged swatting.
Though swatting is often referred to as a prank, it is illegal and can be dangerous. Law enforcement officers often show up with guns drawn thinking they’re responding to a hostile and potentially armed suspect.
In 2017, police in Wichita, Kansas, shot and killed 28-year-old Andrew Finch after he walked out of his home and dropped his arms as officers were demanding he put them up. Those officers were responding to a call that claimed Finch had murdered his father and was holding his mother hostage. In reality, a Los Angeles man named Tyler Raj Barriss had called in a fake emergency at the request of an Ohio gamer who had gotten into an argument with Finch while playing Call of Duty: WWII. Barriss was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in Finch’s death. The Ohio man, Casey Viner, was sentenced to 15 months.