911 caller in ‘swatting’ incident at BLM leader’s home said he was sending ‘message’
Los Angeles police are investigating what officials say was probably a prank call that resulted in heavily armed officers descending on the home of Black Lives Matter activist Melina Abdullah Wednesday morning.
A man who called 911 on Wednesday and falsely claimed to be holding people hostage inside the Los Angeles home of a prominent Black Lives Matter leader told the LAPD dispatcher that he was there to send a message.
“Why are you holding them hostage?” the dispatcher asked, according to audio of the 911 call reviewed by The Times on Thursday.
“To send a message,” the caller said.
“What’s the message?” the dispatcher asked.
“BLM is a bunch of retards,” the man said.
LAPD officers quickly descended on the block, near Crenshaw, and surrounded the home. Inside, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles co-founder Melina Abdullah began live streaming on Instagram, saying she had no idea why the police were outside her home and was scared for her children, who were in the home with her.
Abdullah has been an outspoken critic of the LAPD for years, and has helped to lead large BLM protests against police brutality in the city in recent months.
Police left the scene after Abdullah went outside and met them on the street, telling them she and her family were not being held hostage and were instead concerned about the officers themselves.
Police determined the incident was a “swatting” — where someone calls in a false emergency call in order to draw armed police to a location.
Swatting incidents have been deadly in the past. The FBI has warned against the dangers since 2008.
LAPD denounced the caller’s actions and said its Major Crimes Division was investigating.
No arrest had been made as of Thursday.
The caller seemed to intentionally goad a large police response to the home.
When the dispatcher asked him how long he intended to stay in the residence, he said, “You guys are obviously going to secure a perimeter.”
He said he wanted a million dollars within an hour or he was going to kill the hostages — a threat officers later shared with Abdullah.
He then tells the dispatcher he is going to start shooting the hostages and hung up.
Abdullah, informed of the caller’s comments about BLM by a Times reporter, said it “makes it even clearer to me that there was some animus” behind the call.
It also made her question the response by police, including after she walked outside to defuse the situation, she said.
“If it was a man holding us hostage, why were guns trained on me?” she asked.
“They need to look at their own policies,” Abdullah said. “A prank call is a prank call, and it’s hugely problematic. However, I am more concerned with how LAPD treated me and my children, and how they traumatized our entire street.”
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.