Dog-shooting fallout crashes Hawthorne website, cancels city meeting

Leon Rosby, second from left, embraces his son, Joshua, 12, as they pray for their dog, shot dead by police, during a protest Saturday at the Hawthorne Police Department.
(Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)
<i>This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.</i>

The city of Hawthorne was forced to cancel its City Council meeting Tuesday after Web traffic overwhelmed the city’s website and prevented officials from posting the meeting agenda.

The website, down since last Monday, was flooded with traffic after a public outcry against a video that shows a Hawthorne police officer fatally shooting a dog while restraining its owner, Leon Rosby.

Rosby pulled up to the scene of a police standoff June 30 and began filming police with his cellphone. As three officers approached him, Rosby placed his 2-year-old Rottweiler, Max, in his car.


The dog escaped through an open window and began to bark and lunge at officers. One officer drew his gun and fired four shots.

A video [warning: graphic footage] of the incident on YouTube has received more than 4 million views.

In the aftermath of the controversial shooting, the Hawthorne Police Department has been deluged with calls and emails asking that the officer be fired, as well as bomb threats and death threats to the officers and other city staff, police have said. About 100 people protested in front of the Police Department on Saturday.

The city’s websites received thousands of emails before crashing last Monday, police said. The city tried to make the sites live again the next day, but they crashed again.

The incident has apparently also garnered the attention of the hacking activist group Anonymous.

A purported member of the group, known for crashing websites of its targets, posted a YouTube video last week, calling the shooting “unacceptable” and naming Hawthorne police a “primary target” of the group. “This matter will not remain unresolved,” the narrator promised.

Contrary to some reports, however, Hawthorne police say the city’s websites had not been the target of a cyber-attack. “We don’t have any indication that Anonymous is responsible for bringing the website down,” Hawthorne police spokesman Lt. Scott Swain said.

Swain added that cyber-security specialists were called in last week to work “around the clock” to upgrade the security of police databases and to bolster firewalls.

The city is working with its Web hosting service to strengthen its capacity to handle emails and secure its data, Swain said, and hopes to have the sites online by the end of the week.

The city has launched two investigations into the shooting incident and placed the involved officers on desk duty.

The next council meeting is scheduled for July 23.

[For the Record, 2:06 p.m. PDT July 12: An earlier version of this online post incorrectly stated that the next council meeting is scheduled for July 22; it is on July 23.]


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