LAPD Investigating Possible ‘Swatting’ of Black Lives Matter Leader

In this 2018 photo, Dr. Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, addresses a crowd of activists and families of individuals fatally shot by law enforcement in Los Angeles County. (Courthouse News photo / Martin Macias Jr.)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating a possible prank call Wednesday that triggered a heavily armed police response at the home of leading Black Lives Matter activist Melina Abdullah, who livestreamed the incident as her three children were inside the home.

Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter LA and a professor at California State University, Los Angeles, has been at the forefront of the movement for police accountability in LA County and a leading advocate for a robust ethnic studies program at her campus.

Shortly before she was scheduled to lead a press conference Wednesday regarding ethnic studies at Cal State LA, Abdullah started livestreaming on Instagram from inside her home, saying police had surrounded her home as a helicopter hovered above.

A screenshot of a live Instagram video showing police officers responding to a possible “swatting” incident at the home of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles co-founder Melina Abdullah on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020.

In the video, which has since been removed from Instagram, Abdullah is seen walking outside her home while dozens of heavily armed police officers have weapons aimed at her. 

As neighbors look on from their homes, Abdullah tells police her personal security is inside her home to protect her three children.

A police officer explains to Abdullah that they received a call saying a man was inside her home holding her family hostage with a threat to kill unless he received a $1 million ransom in the next hour. 

“There’s nobody in the house except my own security,” Abdullah tells the officer.

“We just want to make sure you’re OK,” the officer says.

“I’m fine,” Abdullah says in the video. “My kids are petrified.”

The incident appears to be a “swatting” event, which involves someone making a fraudulent 911 call to trigger a heavy police response at the victim’s home or workplace. The abuse tactic has often led to harm or even death in incidents across the nation.

Later in the video, police ask Abdullah if she knows why someone would “do this” to her.

“Do you know who I am?” Abdullah says.

“I have no idea who you are, ma’am,” the officer says. “Do you know who I am? I’m here to take…safety, to make sure no one gets hurt.”

“Yeah, we don’t think you make us safer,” Abdullah tells the officer. “You just scare us to death.”

Abdullah was able to attend Wednesday’s press conference at Cal State LA despite the incident, which is under investigation according to an email from an LAPD spokesperson.

A spokesperson for Abdullah and BLM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

LA City Councilman Herb J. Wesson Jr. said on Twitter shortly after the incident that authorities should investigate. 

“We need an immediate investigation into the incident with Dr. Melina Abdullah this morning at her home,” Wesson tweeted. “This appears to be an illegal act of swatting (a prank call to bring armed officers to a particular address) and we need to hold whoever did this accountable.”

Abdullah has also been a leading critic of LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who has long been criticized for her recalcitrance toward progressive reforms of the criminal legal system and her refusals to criminally charge officers who fatally shoot residents. 

In March, Abdullah and two other activists had a gun pulled on them by Lacey’s husband after BLM activists had rallied outside Lacey’s home seeking a meeting with the DA.

Last week, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office charged David Lacey with three misdemeanor counts of assault with a firearm during the March 2 incident.

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