Man allegedly angry over Castile case is charged in hacking
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A man who allegedly hacked into Minnesota government databases last year because he was angry over the acquittal of the officer who shot and killed Philando Castile was charged in an indictment unsealed Tuesday.
According to an indictment, Cameron Thomas Crowley, who goes by “Vigilance,” faces multiple charges, including three counts of intentional access to a protected computer, one count of intentional damage to a protected computer, and one count of aggravated identity theft. After the breeches, a person tweeting as Vigilance taunted authorities by writing, “Where am I? Clock is ticking.” The person tweeted that the Minnesota databases were targeted in retaliation for the acquittal of former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who was found not guilty of manslaughter and other charges in the 2016 shooting of Castile, a black motorist.
Crowley, 19, of Lino Lakes, was ordered held Tuesday during an initial appearance in U.S. District Court. He was appointed a federal defender and is scheduled for an arraignment Friday.
According to the indictment, Crowley accessed the state’s databases in June 2017 and intentionally transmitted programs, codes and commands to state computer servers, causing damages and a loss to the state of more than $5,000. Crowley is also charged with accessing databases at two unnamed universities and an unnamed school district.
Yanez shot Castile, a 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker, during a July 2016 traffic stop after Castile told the officer he had a firearm. Authorities later discovered Castile had a gun permit. The shooting gained widespread attention after Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the car along with her then-4-year-old daughter, livestreamed its gruesome aftermath on Facebook.
The day after Yanez’s acquittal, Vigilance, who used The Joker as a profile picture, tweeted that the state databases were hacked. The next day, he tweeted that Minnesota State University Moorhead was hacked, and he tied the hacks to the Yanez case.
Over the next few days, he seemed to taunt authorities tweeting: “Sit back and watch the chaos unfold ... More leaks coming for more injustices.” On June 21, 2017, he tweeted: “FBI is now investigating me. All I can say is good luck and this is not the end for me :).”
In a statement posted to Twitter, Vigilance said: “I have attacked large Minnesotan targets for one purpose: Retaliation for Ex-Officer Yanez’s acquittal. I will be back with other hacks. I will be back with other objectives. The FBI is set to investigate me. I am confident my identity is safe. I have a plan, one that I cannot detail just yet, to ensure my safety.”
Shortly after the hack, Minnesota State University Moorhead told students, faculty and staff that passwords would need to be reset. The university said non-sensitive but private data on students was accessed, as well as public data on faculty and staff. No financial information, passwords, Social Security numbers or academic records were stored on the hacked server or accessed, the university said.