Federal and local law enforcement officials are investigating reports that 17 Middle Eastern men fired shots into a remote area of California’s Apple Valley over the weekend while shouting “‘Allah akbar’-type stuff,” according to one police officer. It’s unclear whether the men were being racially profiled or had any ties to terrorism.
The men were detained after fellow campers reported them chanting and shooting into the wild in the Deep Creek Hot Springs area Sunday morning, local CBS stations reported. A 911 caller claimed more than 100 shots were fired by the men, who wore turbans and shot “assault rifles, handguns, and shotguns,” the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. Deputies found the caller’s description of the men was inaccurate. Instead, one of the men was wearing a scarf.
The men were later released because they had no criminal histories or outstanding warrants. “There was no evidence found that a crime had been committed by any of the subjects who were detained, and they were released,” the county sheriff’s Department representative Jodi Miller told the Los Angeles Times.
“None of the persons interviewed yesterday were identified as terrorists,” Miller said.
The men were stopped as they walked near a creek with backpacks “and other items,” the L.A. Times reported. The men, who were detained and searched, did not resist. Several handguns, a rifle and a shotgun found at the scene were registered, with the exception of the rifle, but the weapon was deemed to be legal in California.
“They were up all night chanting ‘Allah akbar’-type stuff,” an unidentified officer was heard in police scanner traffic posted online by the Victor Valley News Group. FBI representative Laura Eimiller said an investigation had been launched with local authorities to determine whether crimes had been committed.
It’s unclear if the men did anything illegal. Shooting is permitted on U.S. Bureau of Land Management territory and in the San Bernardino National Forest.