LOS ANGELES (AP) – Three teenagers motivated by racial hatred are behind false calls that sparked major police raids at the home of a prominent Black Lives Matter activist in Los Angeles, authorities said.
The teens, ages 13 to 16, connected via the Discord chat platform and are suspected of more than 30 bomb threats and “swatting” calls across the country, the Los Angeles Police Department explained Friday. Swatting is a fake emergency call made to lure special police forces to a specific address for no reason.
They are accused of causing two such incidents – one last September and another in August 2021 – at the home of Melina Abdullah, co-founder of the BLM chapter in the city and a professor at Cal State Los Angeles.
The police did not mention Abdullah by name as a victim of the teenagers, but gave his block as the location of the two swatting cases.
According to the police, the teenagers were behind false complaints made since July 2020 that targeted “other internet personalities, gamers, activists, schools, airports, places of worship and entertainment and memorial parks.”
Authorities will present the case to the Los Angeles County prosecutor’s office for crimes of criminal conspiracy and creating a false emergency, and they plan to request a hate crime add-on in connection with the incidents at Abdullah’s home.
“Some of the language used in the ‘swatting’ incidents and a review of the subjects’ internet activity reflect a racially motivated theme in several of these ‘swatting’ attacks,” police said in a statement.
Two of the teens live in Ohio and New York, where authorities served search warrants on Tuesday. The third is a US citizen who currently resides on Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean.
Abdullah, a prominent critic of the police, had previously condemned the police raids outside his home, where armed SWAT special forces officers surrounded the house and ordered him to leave through a loudspeaker. He has a pending lawsuit against the department for his actions during the August 12, 2020 incident.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times on Friday, Abdullah said he doubted police information about the teens and noted that the alleged actions of the youths do not excuse the police tactics employed at his home.
“Even if everything they are saying is true, the police (LAPD) used this occasion as an opportunity to try to terrorize me and my family,” he told the newspaper.
When contacted by The Associated Press on Friday, Abdullah said she will post a statement on her social media profiles.