Vandalism at the Sylmar home of a city Animal Services Department employee may be part of an escalating pattern of threats and intimidation by a militant animal rights organization, the LAPD's counterterrorism chief said Saturday.
Vandals with suspected ties to the Animal Liberation Front, a secretive international group on the U.S. Justice Department's list of domestic terror organizations, on Friday spray-painted slogans including "ALF, Eyes on You" and "Resign [expletive]" at the residence of Jackie David, the public information officer for the department, police said.
The group is suspected in about a dozen incidents in Los Angeles over the last year, including vandalism at McDonald's restaurants and the Hollywood Hills home of an executive with a company that conducts animal testing. No arrests have been made, police said.
David's photograph, along with the location of her office and phone number, is posted on a website affiliated with the group, police said. David and other Animal Services employees are listed under the heading "players/targets," which includes images of a red target, bullet holes, and ammunition for rifles.
"This is clearly an attempt to intimidate a city employee," said John Miller, the Los Angeles Police Department's counterterrorism chief, of the Christmas Eve vandalism. "It's low-grade terrorism and it's part of a series of attacks targeted at city employees from the mayor on down, aimed at intimidating them to keep them from doing their jobs."
The Animal Liberation Front says on its website that its purpose is to carry out acts "causing financial loss to animal exploiters, usually through the damage and destruction of property."
The site says members are told to remain anonymous. No one affiliated with the group could be reached Saturday.
Police said they believe members recently vandalized the apartment of another Animal Services employee, Volunteer Coordinator Aram Salmasi.
Last month, the Animal Liberation Front was linked by police to vandalism at McDonald's restaurants in the Harbor Gateway and Crenshaw districts, where vandals spray-painted "Don't feed your kids McKillers," "Stop McKiller" and "We won't sleep until the slaughter ends."
LAPD investigators suspect that the group has carried out numerous crimes, some involving bombs and arson, since 1996 against fast-food outlets in Chico, Calif., and in Arizona, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah and Virginia.
Police also said they believe the group repeatedly has targeted the Hollywood Hills home of an executive with Huntingdon Life Sciences, an animal testing lab. The executive was not identified, but authorities said that in the most recent incident last month someone threw a stink bomb into the garage, broke windows and painted "ALF" on the house.
"They are involved in a pattern of destruction of property and intimidation of people," Miller said. "When you are doing that with the end of achieving some political goal, these are the roots of terrorism and it's one of the things that gives us great concern."
Miller said the LAPD has had discussions with the Los Angeles city attorney and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office about initiating civil proceedings to shut down the website because authorities say it tacitly threatens violence.
In 1999, a federal judge in Oregon shut down a website called the Nuremberg Files that listed the home addresses of abortion doctors across the country -- with lines through the names of those who had been slain.
The judge ruled that the site was a threat, not an opinion, so it was not protected under the Constitution.
Miller said criminal proceedings could also target the Animal Defense League, which appears to be the group supporting the Animal Liberation Front and operating its website.
"The Animal Defense League is an above-ground animal rights group, but fully supports the great work done by the underground Animal Liberation Front in freeing animals who are being tortured, exposing animal abuse and reducing the economic viability of animal abuse industries," the league says on its website.