The Cincinnati Police were left worried after a group of hackers threatened to release personal police officer details, and then actually released the information to the public. Known as the Anonymous Anon Verdict, the hacking group released a video specifically designed to target Cincinnati Police Officers and their families by releasing names, phone numbers, and addresses of these individuals. Their retaliation was large in part due to the way the Cincinnati Police handled a shooting that took place in Westwood.
Hackers release the video
After making threats to release the video, the hacker group released it on a Sunday evening. The group also wanted to provide their message, as to why they were targeting the Cincinnati Police. In their YouTube video, the group showed footage of the shooting that took place by officers in Westwood. Their message was clear and it is as followed:
“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.”
Personal information was released for more than 50 Cincinnati Police officers, which also included Eliot Isaac, Police Chief. The information was able to removed by 4:30 am the following Monday, however it is not known if any of the information was put into the wrong hands.
Shooting that caused the retaliation
The hackers were specifically referring to a case that took place just before the information was released. Paul Gaston was a man driving his vehicle when he crashed into a pole. When police arrived on scene they described Gaston as being erratic, but he was compliant initially. Once the officers on scene made orders, he was said to reach into his belt to grab a gun, which is when officers shot him. Although they believe the weapon to be a real handgun, it was only an Airsoft pellet gun. Based on a video that was released, the anonymous hacker group believes that Gaston did comply and the officers decided to shoot him instead. They even went as far as to compare this incident with the Tamir Rice shooting case.
Police information a concern
It is definitely a concern when any personal information is released regarding a police officer. When an address or phone number is leaked, it poses a threat by individuals who will retaliate in violent ways to both the police officers and their families. Capt. Michael Hartzler of the Greater Cincinnati Fusion Center said that this is something that happened in Ferguson, among other places. For the time being, cyber analysts are working to track the origin of the hacker group. The Cincinnati Police are not worried about a police murder investigation as they believe they have enough cell phone evidence of Gaston being noncompliant. In addition, the video shows a realistic looking weapon that could be easily confused for a real gun.
For now, Cincinnati Police Officers and their families remain on alert for any possible danger by the hacker group, or other angry individuals within the community.