Black Lives Matter activist loses lawsuit against Los Angeles police over ‘swatting’ hoax response

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A leading Black Lives Matter activist in Los Angeles on Thursday lost her lawsuit against the city's police department over its handling of hoax phone calls that brought a large law enforcement response to her home.

Police have said three teens driven by racial hatred were behind so-called swatting calls across the country, including two in 2020 and 2021 to the Los Angeles home of Melina Abdullah, co-founder of BLM-LA and a Cal State LA professor. “Swatting” refers to a phony emergency call made to send police to a particular address without cause.

Abdullah, a prominent police critic, condemned the Los Angeles Police Department responses to her residence, which included armed SWAT officers surrounding her house and ordering her to come outside through a loudspeaker.

She sued the the department for its actions during the Aug. 12, 2020, incident, which she said left her and her three children fearing for their lives. A jury found the LAPD and the city were not liable, the Los Angeles City Attorney's office said.

“We lost,” BLM-LA said on the social platform X. “The judge and the jury — which had no Black people — vote against us and for police violence. We will keep fighting.”

There was no immediate response to a voicemail seeking comment that was left on Abdullah's cellphone. Her attorney, Erin Darling, said a statement would be released later.

During the trial, police Sergeant James Mankey, one of the defendants, said authorities received a call about a hostage situation at the activist's home. Mankey told jurors he ordered officers to approach the property in tactical gear even though he was “70%” certain they were responding to a hoax, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The sergeant said he didn’t want to take the chance of not sending the officers if the 911 call turned out to be true.

Abdullah's attorneys alleged that police targeted her because of her activism.

LAPD investigators said in 2021 that the teenagers, aged 13 to 16, connected over the Discord chat platform and were suspected in more than 30 bomb threats and swatting incidents targeting "video gamers, activists, schools, airports, houses of worship, entertainment venues and memorial parks.”