While many of us had our eyes on the U.S. Capitol lockdown and New York’s Times Square evacuation yesterday, federal and local law enforcement authorities were quietly investigating another scene in California that was bizarre, at best, and potentially ominous at worst.
In a remote part of San Bernardino County — yes, that San Bernardino County — 17 men of Middle Eastern descent were detained after firing hundreds of shots while chanting, “Allahu akbar.”
Via CBS Los Angeles:
Federal and local law enforcement authorities Tuesday are investigating after 17 men were detained for reportedly firing off hundreds of rounds in a remote part of Apple Valley.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies and an FBI agent were among the units that detained the men – reportedly all of Middle Eastern descent – who were camping out in the Deep Creek Hot Springs area Sunday morning, authorities said.
A 911 caller reported hearing over 100 shots fired and seeing five to seven men wearing turbans and shooting “assault rifles, handguns, and shotguns,” according to a Sheriff’s Department statement.
A county sheriff’s helicopter located the men walking near a creek with backpacks “and other items”, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Officials say the men were cooperative as they were detained and searched.
Several handguns, a rifle, and a shotgun were found at the scene, but a records check found all the weapons were registered with the exception of the rifle, which reportedly didn’t have a serial number because it was purchased in parts, an FBI spokesperson told The Times.
Police scanner traffic posted online by the Victor Valley News Group described “a large group of subjects wearing turbans and chanting” at the scene.
“They were up all night chanting ‘Allah akbar’-type stuff,” an unidentified officer is heard saying on the audio recording.
None of the hikers interviewed by Sheriff’s investigators say they witnessed any shots being fired, according to Sheriff’s officials.
A photo of the arrests showing several men handcuffed at the scene was posted by the Victor Valley News Group but was not immediately confirmed by authorities.
All 17 men were ultimately released, because they had not outstanding warrants or criminal histories, according to Sheriff’s investigators. Neither did the San Bernardino terrorists, Syed Rizwan Farook or Tashfeen Malik.
However, as “there was no evidence found that a crime had been committed by any of the subjects,” all men had to be released.
The Los Angeles Times quotes the Sheriff’s spokesperson as stating declaratively, “None of the persons interviewed yesterday were identified as terrorists,” she said.
However, the paper noted that the FBI may conduct further interviews to determine if any crimes were committed. We can only hope this means the FBI deems this group worth watching further, particularly after their chants of “Allahu akbar.”
Of course, we’ve all seen how reliable our ability to track terrorists are at this point — especially when new recruits are being trained all the time. And, sadly, many of these terrorists may not have a prior record — until they blow themselves up in the name of jihad.
So were these 17 guys just having an innocent male bonding overnight with their guns and “Allahu akbar” chants — and deserve to just be left alone? Or is the reason for their gathering more ominous, such as a test run for some kind of attack?
Whether these particular guys are any cause for suspicion or not, this is part of the problem with allowing in tens of thousands of refugees from ISIS hotbeds, en masse, without the ability to properly vet them. We have few options then but to sit back and wait for them to do something — and, too often, it’s already too late by then.
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]