BLM leader’s lawyer demands answers after LAPD searches his home

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An attorney for Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles leader Melina Abdullah is demanding that the Los Angeles Police Department return or destroy any privileged attorney-client records officers may have photographed while searching his Hollywood home this week. He is also demanding answers about the reason for the search, which he says was unjustified.

A police spokeswoman said the search is now the subject of an internal affairs investigation.

Dermot Givens, 67, represents Abdullah in a lawsuit in which she accuses the LAPD of badly mishandling a 2020 “swatting” incident, when heavily armed officers in tactical gear surrounded her home based on a false report of an emergency there.

Givens said his first thought when he saw similarly armed LAPD officers swarming his townhome Tuesday was that he was being “swatted” himself.

“I go, ‘Are you all swatting me?’” Givens said in an interview Friday with The Times. “And they said, ‘Who are you?’ And I said, ‘I live here!’”

LAPD officers with their cruiser.

A squad car outside Givens’ home.

(Dermot Givens)

Givens said armed LAPD officers showed him a warrant that listed his address but not his name, then “ransacked” his home. He said officers left without finding whom and what they told him they were looking for: a much younger Black man and an Apple AirTag they said was pinging in the vicinity of the home, among other items.

What the officers did take, Givens said, were photographs of documents from Abdullah’s case that happened to be on his kitchen table. He was initially escorted outside but walked in on officers photographing the documents, he said.

“I had everything out,” he said of the documents.

By Friday, the matter was before a judge in Los Angeles Superior Court, where Erin Darling — another attorney for Abdullah — filed for an emergency order requiring the LAPD to return or destroy any “attorney work product” they’d taken or captured in the pictures, as well as provide a copy of records supporting the search warrant.

“The LAPD has trampled on [Givens’] attorney work product,” the filing states.

Darling said a judge granted the order, but he had not received any of the materials as of Friday evening. Online court records show that the order was granted.

Capt. Kelly Muniz, a spokeswoman for the LAPD, said in a statement to The Times late Friday that the department could not comment on the incident “since it is an open criminal case as well as an open internal affairs investigation.”

Abdullah said she learned of the matter Friday and found it concerning.

“The first thing [I thought] was, like, ‘Oh, that’s crazy that they swatted the attorney who is suing them on my behalf for swatting me,’” she said. “Along with, ‘Is Dermot OK?’”

Givens said he was fine but shaken, embarrassed and angry — and full of questions.

He said it made no sense that a judge would grant a warrant for police to search his home, even if they did believe that an AirTag — a trackable electronic device that can be attached to luggage or other property — was inside.

“If you’re doing an investigation to find somebody’s stolen property, wouldn’t you go and find out who lives in the house and talk to the person who lives in the house?” he said.

If they were looking for a younger Black man, whom he said they referred to as “Tyler,” why wouldn’t they accept what he told them when they arrived: that he had lived at the home for more than 20 years, most recently alone, and didn’t know “Tyler”?

Givens said the officers refused to give him a full copy of the warrant, providing only the last two pages of the four-page document. Those pages — which were included in Darling’s court filing — said the warrant was to search for firearms and ammunition, any “identity theft and forgery-related materials,” cameras, lock-picking equipment and cellphones and other communication devices.

Givens called the incident “absolutely crazy” — and terrifying.

If he hadn’t seen the officers rolling onto his block in multiple vehicles and walked onto his balcony, would they have busted in on him? They had a battering ram, so breaking into his home if necessary seemed part of their plan, he said. That’s how Black men like him get killed, he said — for making a “furtive movement.”

Givens said the officers “ransacked” his home, leaving it in disarray, with items taken out of closets and left on the floor. He worries what his neighbors think.

“It’s totally f— embarrassing,” he said.

A bedroom following an LAPD search.

Givens said LAPD officers “ransacked” his home.

(Dermot Givens)

Givens said he has represented many clients suing the police and wonders if the search was a matter of “retaliation and intimidation.”

“I’m not a conspiracy theorist,” he said. “But this is something that was planned.”

He said he is eager to see what Darling’s filing produces — including what was the justification for the warrant.

“Our justice system is supposed to get us to the truth,” he said.

Darling said he was equally interested in that information.

“What did they actually give to the judge for that judge to grant a warrant for a property that is actually the home of Mr. Givens?” Darling said. “In theory, it’s a high standard. They have to have probable cause that a crime has been committed, or that something related to a crime is going to be in someone’s home.”

Abdullah has been swatted — in which someone calls in a false emergency to draw armed police to a location — at least three times.

The first incident occurred in August 2020, after a summer of protests against police brutality that Abdullah helped organize as a leader of Black Lives Matter. According to 911 calls reviewed by The Times, the caller claimed to be holding people hostage at Abdullah’s home to “send a message” that “BLM is a bunch of retards.”

In September 2021, Abdullah filed suit against the LAPD, alleging that its actions during the incident — when she was drawn out of her home at gunpoint — constituted unlawful seizure, false imprisonment, excessive force and assault and negligence, among other violations of her rights.

The day after the lawsuit was announced, Abdullah was swatted a second time. Within days, she was swatted a third time.

Swatting is considered highly dangerous for the targets; such incidents have been deadly.

Authorities have been investigating the incidents against Abdullah and said they believe the person responsible had made false calls to other U.S. police departments.

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