CINCINNATI — A “hacktivist” group Anonymous Anon Verdict announced in a video Sunday that it had released personal information of 52 Cincinnati Police Department employees, from Chief Eliot Isaac to rank-and-file officers.
Cincinnati police Lt. Steve Saunders said that the department is investigating the situation to assess the risk to officers, establish if there has been a breach of their systems and find who is responsible. He said that it appears all the information could have been obtained through means available to the general public on the Internet like social media and public records sources.
In a 3-minute video posted to YouTube, the group states the so-called data dump was in response to the recent death of Paul Gaston, who was shot and killed by Cincinnati police officers on Wednesday.
The personal data, including names, ages, street addresses, email addresses and social media accounts of the officers, was posted in two links provided with the video. The names and addresses of many of the officers’ family members were also published.
A link posted by Anon Verdict to the data was not working as of 8:30 a.m. Monday. A notice at the URL read “This page is no longer available. It has either expired, been removed by its creator, or removed by one of the Pastebin staff.”
It’s unclear if Anon Verdict is associated with the hacking group known as Anonymous that has been blamed for national government and corporate data breaches. As of 8:30 a.m., none of the most popular Anonymous social accounts were aggregating Anon Verdict’s data or YouTube video.
In the video, the group compared the shooting of Gaston, a black man who police said was reaching for a gun that was later found to be an Airsoft gun, to the Mount Healthy police encounter with Christopher Laugle, a white man, the day before. It’s a comparison that has been made by others, including New York Daily News writer Shaun King and Counter Current News, a blog with a large social media presence. King’s column argued that the two incidents revealed police “double standards faced by black men and white men.”
Police stated Laugle pointed a toy gun at officers, then was shot with a Taser and arrested. Mount Healthy Police Chief Vince Demasi told The Enquirer last week that the incidents in Mount Healthy and in Cincinnati were dramatically different. He said his officers were told the gun in the Laugle case was a “toy” and was a fake. The gun also had bright orange markings on the barrel, which denotes it as a toy.
There were no orange markings on Gaston’s gun, officials said.
After Gaston crashed his pickup into a utility pole on Harrison Avenue, a 911 caller said he stumbled out of the vehicle, “dropped a gun, and then picked up the gun and took off.”
Less than a half-hour later, Cincinnati police officers shot and killed Gaston, 37, after officials said he reached for a gun in the waistband of his pants. It turned out to be an Airsoft gun, which looked like a real gun. Gaston was on his knees with his hands behind his head before police said he went for the gun.
Officials released cell phone video from bystanders of police’s encounter with Gaston. Those videos are shown in the Anonymous Anon Verdict announcement.
The group threatened to release more personal data if similar situations occur in the future.
The group released the following transcript of their video:
“Greetings world, we are Anonymous Anon Verdict. The following clip you are about to see are three separate cell phone clips of Cincinnati Police Department murdering a black man named Paul Gaston while he held his hands up on February 17th. With the evidence provided it is quite obvious that he was complying and had his hands in the air. Just a day before this shooting in the Cincinnati Metropolitan area this man was accused of pointing this replica at police. He lived… But John Crawfod, Tamir Rice, and now Paul Gaston didn’t. How does one man point a fake pistol at a cop and live while another man doesn’t, but is killed execution style? For far to long we have sat idle by letting the gang known as the Thin Blue Line murder citizens of United States without allowing them due process. Well we have a message to not only the Cincinnati Police Department but to every law enforcement officer. When you murder a human being when you have other choices of containing your suspect available we will make your officers information public record. We will data dump as many officers as we see fit for each situation. We will not only release the officer who murdered the citizens information but we will release those that have stood by in the department that did not speak up. We have lost more lives to the Thin Blue Line than we have lost in the Afghanistan War. Thin Blue Line, your game is over. You lost. While we release your officers information, we will hold no responsibility of the actions of those that see the information.”
Anonymous has had a presence in Cincinnati since the early days of the group’s formation. On Feb. 10, 2008, the group protested outside the Church of Scientologyof Ohio on Fourth Street. Members covered their faces, but few had adopted the group’s signature Guy Fawkes masks.
Fawkes is a historical figure notable for his role in the Gunpowder Plot, a November 1605 failed assassination plot in England. The mask has grown to be symbol of Anonymous.
The “action” against the Church of Scientology took place around the United States and in several different countries on that day. Members of Anonymous have said it was the first large-scale public action taken by the group.
The church has since left the building, but Anonymous members have remained. Members participated in the Occupy Cincinnati movement in 2011 and 2012, and marched in the protests that followed the death of Sam DuBose last summer. They have also held a number of “#OpHelpingHands” events gathering clothes for the homeless, often in Piatt Park, as recently as last November.
Outside of public events and protests, Anonymous is known for previously bringing down the CIA’s website and hacking newspaper websites and those of large corporations such as Sony.
Membership is vaguely defined and the group considers itself more of a web “gathering” without a defined leadership structure.