The Hawthorne Police Department is reportedly bolstering its cyber security after it received threats from the hacktivist collective Anonymous, which pledged to retaliate against the law enforcement agency for shooting a dog last Sunday. While arresting Hawthorne, Calif., resident Leon Rosby -- police claimed that the loud music emanating from Rosby’s car was disturbing an adjacent crime scene -- Rosby’s Rottweiler leapt out of the window of his parked car and jumped at police officers.
During the incident, which was captured in several cellphone videos taken by bystanders, one of the officers involved shot the dog four times, killing it, as onlookers screamed. In an interview with the Daily Breeze on Wednesday, Lt. Scott Swain said that the department had pulled three of its officers from street duty after reportedly receiving death threats.
"There's a lot of calls coming in where people are calling us names and dog killers," Swain said. "They are entitled to their opinions and to make comments like that, but where you cross the line is when you make the threat against the safety of police officers and police officers' family members."
Swain said that he was not surprised that members of the community had been upset by the video. But he maintained that officers had been forced to kill the animal, and were similarly upset by the incident.
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"The police officers involved are affected by this incident and having to kill a dog. I don't understand how it translates into an eye for an eye. 'We are going to kill you and your family because of this incident,’” Swain added. “Like in my case. I wasn't even working that night."
The same day that Swain issued his plea asking community to express their opinions in a non-threatening way, Anonymous released a video on YouTube calling the police department’s actions “unacceptable,” and warning that they should expect a cyberattack. “Recently you watched the well-known video involving a police officer from Hawthorne that shot a dog dead, because the dog wanted to help its owner,” the video stated. “That is unacceptable. Police of Hawthorne, you must know that you are our primary target.”
According to Southern California Public Radio, the Hawthorne Police Department is in the process of upgrading its database protection in anticipation of a possible cyberattack. “The information that may get out there may compromise critical investigations or personnel,” Sgt. Joe Romero said.
Rosby has also urged those angered by the incident not to threaten the police department. "Just calm down," Rosby told NBC Los Angeles. "Stop threatening them and their families. All police officers are not bad.”
In a statement released on Wednesday, the department said, “This Department truly feels in the loss of the Rottweiler dog “Max” and for those impacted by such. We, as a Department, as animal owners ourselves, and the Officer directly involved himself, all relate and empathize in this.”