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L.A. sheriff probes rapper for allegedly setting off 'flashcalls'

By Michael Martinez, CNN
The Game allegedly tweeted the phone number of a Compton sheriff's station. He has more than 580,000 followers.
The Game allegedly tweeted the phone number of a Compton sheriff's station. He has more than 580,000 followers.
  • Authorities allege that rapper tweeted Compton sheriff's station's phone number
  • The station was suddenly overwhelmed with hundreds of phone calls
  • The "flashcalls" caused police to delay help to urgent calls about robberies, assault
  • Detectives are looking at charging the rapper with three misdemeanors

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Los Angeles County Sheriff's detectives are considering misdemeanor charges against rapper The Game for allegedly tweeting the phone number of a sheriff's station and prompting hundreds of his followers to flood dispatchers and deputies with phone calls, a spokesman said.

The sheriff's station in Compton was so overwhelmed with apparent prank calls for two hours Friday evening that help was delayed in response to urgent calls about a missing person, a spousal assault, two robberies and a stolen car, Capt. Mike Parker, Los Angeles County Sheriff spokesman, said.

The Game, whose real name is Jayceon Taylor and who also uses the name Charles Louboutin on his Twitter page, tweeted the sheriff station's phone number at 5:23 p.m. PT Friday in connection with a music internship he is offering, Parker told CNN Saturday.

Representatives for Taylor couldn't be reached immediately for comment, but CNN affiliate KTLA reported that his representatives issued a statement saying his account had been hacked.

On his Twitter page, Taylor said the incident was "an accident."

Investigators weren't aware Saturday of a motive for the rapper's tweets, Parker said.

"We don't know if it was a publicity stunt or if he thinks it's funny. We welcome his phone call to us," Parker said.

Taylor tweeted late Friday, "Yall can track a tweet down but cant solve murders ! Dat was an accident but maybe now yall can actually do yall job !!!!"

When told of the hacking explanation, Parker said: "If you look at this Twitter account, you can see a stream of what's being said and what's not being said. I have yet to see anything on his Twitter account that he was hacked.

"But somebody did this, and his name is on it. That's why we're doing a criminal investigation to determine what exactly occurred and who exactly did it," Parker told CNN.

The Game's Twitter page has more than 580,000 followers, and the sheriff's station's phones were immediately overwhelmed after the tweet, Parker said. The phone number was removed from the rapper's Twitter page about 11:30 p.m. Friday, Parker said.

"He sets the stage by saying if you want to be an intern, do this, and he said call, and this is the phone number. ..." Parker said.

"In the context of the back-and-forth with (a person on the rapper's Twitter page), it looks like they were sharing the number. You couldn't tell what's going on, but if you were among 580,000 followers, you thought this was an internship and if you wanted to be an intern for him, call this phone number," Parker said.

Many callers hung up as soon as they heard "Compton Sheriff's Station," and deputies thought their phones were malfunctioning, Parker said. Other callers asked deputies about the internship, Parker said.

The deluge of calls interfered with the ability of personnel to answer 911 calls, Parker said. Additional sheriff's personnel were called to duty, he said. Authorities don't know how many urgent calls for help didn't get through, he added.

The sheriff is considering charging The Game with at least three different misdemeanors and is planning to present its case to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office next week, Parker said.

Those three alleged offenses would be for making annoying or harassing phone calls via electronic device or the Internet whether or not conversation ensues; delaying or obstructing peace officers in the performance of their duties, and knowingly and maliciously disrupting or impeding communications over a public safety radio frequency, Parker said.

A misdemeanor in California typically carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail, Parker said.

Each of the hundreds of phone calls could constitute a separate offense, Parker said.

"In the age of new media that began just a few short years ago, musicians, celebrities and notable persons have a large of number of followers on social media. They have an obligation to be responsible and to care about the community and their fans -- which includes not doing the social media equivalent of yelling 'fire' in a crowded movie theater," Parker told CNN.

Authorities are calling the incident a "telephone flashmob" or "flashcalls," which is a sudden and overwhelming number of phone calls and is the latest riff on unlawful conduct originating from social media, Parker said.

"Flashmobs" began as an innocent organizing of individuals through social media to do spur-of-the-moment dances in public spaces such as a mall or a park, but increasingly, social media has been used to organize flashmobs for criminal activity, evidenced in the recent riots in London and in Vancouver, Canada, earlier this year after the Stanley Cup loss, Parker said.

The so-called flashcall or telephone flashmob is the newest twist on the trend, Parker said.

"I see this as another iteration, another version of the social media phenomenon," Parker said.

"We are unaware of any other police agency anywhere that has handled something like this. We are familiar with flashmob activity, but we haven't seen any flashcall or phone flashmobs -- whatever you want to call it -- that have disabled a policing agency from helping the public when they are in danger," Parker said.

"We consider this extremely serious," he added.

By 7 p.m. Friday, authorities discovered the source of the phone calls was The Game's Twitter account, in which the rapper provided a few phone numbers -- including one for the sheriff's station -- for an internship he was offering, Parker said.

"I know he has connections to that community," Parker said when asked about why the sheriff's station in Compton was selected.

The community is well known in rap music ever since the album "Straight Outta Compton" put the town on the map in the late 1980s.

Parker said he sent The Game two tweets at 7 p.m. Friday and another at 11 p.m. asking him to remove the phone number from his Twitter page.

By about 11:30 p.m., the musician had removed the sheriff station's phone number from his tweets, Parker said.