Hacktivist group Anonymous has targeted the Cincinnati police department by exposing online the personal information of officers and their families following the shooting of a black man who was believed to be unarmed.
Paul Gaston, 37, was shot nine times by officers of the Cincinnati police after he allegedly failed to comply with orders to lie flat on the ground and then appeared to be reaching for a weapon, which turned out to be a plastic toy BB pistol.
Anonymous splinter group Anon Verdict has taken issue with the shooting, claiming policing double standards, alluding to the belief Gaston was killed because of his race. The group points out that Ohio is an 'open carry' state, which means individuals have the right to visibly carry a licensed firearm in public. They also cite a case a day earlier, in which another man (who was white) pointed a BB gun at an officer in the same city, but was arrested rather than gunned down.
"How does one man point a fake pistol at a cop and live while another man doesn't, but is killed execution style?" an Anonymous member said in a YouTube clip aimed at spreading the message of its operation #OpAnonVerdict.
In response to the shooting the hacktivists dumped the data of 52 officers of the CPD online including names, addresses, email and social media accounts, and also the details of some officers' family members. The first name on the data dump was chief of police Eliot Isaac, complete with his phone number and addresses of his known family members.
It went on to list homicide detectives, beat officers and other staff, with extensive personal private information exposed. The fear now is those on the data dump will be targets for retribution.
The masked individual in the video posted to YouTube, who is seen stood at a podium bearing the Anonymous logo, goes onto say: "For far too 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."
Isaac defended the three officers who have been identified as shooting and killing Gaston, saying they were fearful of their lives and acted to protocol. "They initially gave him commands to go to his knees which he initially complied. They also gave him additional commands to lie flat on the ground.
The individual begins to go to the ground, then continues to rise up and retrieves a firearm from his waistband. Based on what we've been able to determine, our officers responded appropriately and according to their training."
Anonymous states they will continue to release further data. "We will data dump as many officers as we see fit for each situation. We will not only release the officers' information who murdered the citizen but we will release those that have stood by in the department that did not speak up. Thin Blue Line, your game is over. You lost."