Possible Terror Cell Captured in Southern California Desert

At 8:25 a.m. Sunday morning, March 27, 2016, multiple agencies responded the report of suspicious circumstances including reports of gunshots and chanting in the predawn hours in the Deep Creek hot springs area in a remote part of Apple Valley. Deputies from Apple Valley, Hesperia, Adelanto and Victorville Police Departments also responded to help.

Seventeen men of Middle Eastern descent were ‘detained.’

A caller to 911 reported hearing more than 100 shots fired and seeing several men wearing turbans in the area of the shooting. San Bernardino County sheriff’s office said the men were released after authorities found no evidence of a specific crime or outstanding warrants.

With the help of a sheriff’s helicopter, deputies located the men walking away from a creek carrying backpacks and other items. A search found several handguns, a rifle and a shotgun

“A records check of the subjects, their weapons, and their vehicles was completed,” the statement said. “The records check revealed none of the subjects had a criminal history or outstanding warrants, the weapons were registered with the Department of Justice except for the rifle, and the vehicles were also registered.”

One rifle did not have a serial number because it was bought in parts. But it was deemed to be legal in California.

Sheriff’s investigators contacted several hikers, but supposedly none saw the guns being fired. However, Dave Stevens, who was hiking at the Hot Springs on Sunday, said he first heard shots fired around 6:30 a.m. and saw five or six men “shooting in the air.”

“I was about 50 feet away from the hot tub and saw them fire about six to eight shots,” Stevens said.

Stevens also said he heard from other hikers that the men were chanting, but did not know anything else as he quickly left the area. His statement’s bolstered by police scanner traffic posted online describing “a large group of subjects wearing turbans and chanting” at the scene.

“They were up all night chanting ‘Allah akbar’-type stuff,” an unidentified law enforcement officer is heard saying on the audio recording as he speaks to his dispatcher.

“None of the subjects that were interviewed were found to be terrorists,” Sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller said. “They were detained, interviewed and cooperated fully with deputies.”

Another sheriff’s spokeswoman, Olivia Bozek said, “The deputies detained the subjects and from what I was told they are going to be transported to the High Desert Detention Center.  I do not know what charges they are going to be booked for.”

And so the question remains: If the 17 men aren’t terrorist, were they arrested or simply detained and if only being detained, why were they taken to a detention center and why speculate on what charges they might face? None of this adds up.

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