By Randy Economy
Throngs of media from all over the world converged on a quiet Cerritos cul-de-sac on Thursday morning after it was revealed that an anti-Islamic filmmaker responsible for sparking worldwide violent protests was staying hidden inside his two-story home.
The Cerritos resident who allegedly goes by the name of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, age 55, appeared to be hidden inside his Park Street home while at least 30 media trucks, and dozens reporters and photographers attempted to contact the filmmaker.
On Thursday late afternoon, Los Cerritos Community Newspaper spoke to someone inside the house, through a closed front door who did not identify himself. “I have nothing to say to you, please leave. I am telling you, leave me alone. I want you to leave, we want to be left alone,” the person said.
Lying out in front of the home was a large solid oak head-board, and a tattered cloth sofa. On the doorstep was a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a pair of woman’s tennis shoes, and several flyers from local Cerritos area businesses. In addition, the front door was missing a bottom lock with a hole in the door that had masking tape affixed on the inside of the door.
The home is located near Frontier Park on the 12600 block of Park Street. Neighbors said that Nakoula has three children who live at the home who are 13, 19 and 21 years of age.
Cerritos City Manager Art Gallucci told Los Cerritos Community Newspaper that he was informed early Thursday morning about the situation.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s spokesperson Steve Whitmore was on scene briefing reporters with updates.
Federal authorities identified Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who was once convicted of financial crimes as the key figure behind the anti-Muslim film that ignited mob violence against U.S. embassies across the Mideast, a U.S. law enforcement official.
US Attorney General Eric Holder said that Justice Department officials had opened a criminal investigation into the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other diplomats killed during an attack on the American mission in Benghazi.
It was not immediately clear whether authorities were focusing on the Cerritos filmmaker as part of that probe.
A federal law enforcement official said Thursday that Nakoula, 55, was the man behind “Innocence of Muslims,” a film denigrating Islam and the Prophet Muhammad that sparked protests earlier in the week in Egypt and Libya and now in Yemen. U.S. authorities are investigating whether the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya came during a terrorist attack.
Associated Press also reported that Nakoula denied that he was Bacile and insisted he did not direct the film, though he said he knew Bacile. But, AP reported that federal court papers filed against Nakoula in a 2010 criminal prosecution said that he had used numerous aliases in the past. Among the fake names, the documents said, were Nicola Bacily, Robert Bacily and Erwin Salameh, all similar to the Sam Bacile persona. Other aliases described in the documents included Ahmad Hamdy, Kritbag Difrat and PJ Tobacco.
During a conversation outside his home with a Associated Press, Nakoula offered his driver’s license to show his identity but kept his thumb over his middle name, Basseley. Records checks by the AP subsequently found that middle name as well as other connections to the Bacile persona.
The AP located Bacile after obtaining his cell phone number from Morris Sadek, a conservative Coptic Christian in the U.S. who had promoted the anti-Muslim film in recent days on his website. Egypt’s Christian Coptic populace has long decried what they describe as a history of discrimination and occasional violence from the country’s Arab majority.
NEIGHBORS REACT IN DISBELIEF
Several neighbors who live in the upscale neighborhood told LCCN that Nakoula is a quiet neighbor who “pretty much keeps to himself.” Nam Paik, 56, who lives next door to Nakoula that he every time he has spoken to Nakoula, that he “is always very serious.” “We exchange hi’s and bye’s once in a while, but he really never speaks to any of the neighbors,” Paik said.
Keat Saw, 53, who lives across the street from the now famous home, says he has lived in Cerritos for the past 14 years and said that the family are “pretty nice people,” but said that Nakoula “hardly talks to anyone.” “It is hard to imagine what is going on here in my front yard, drive way and street,” Saw said.
Alan Chowdhely, 47, who live around the corner from Nakoula said the situation was “too much” for him to “get his arms around.”
“There are lots of good people in this world, and many bad people. This is like a scene out of a real bad movie,” said Chowdhely.
Marcel Teloma, 18, from Cerritos who attends Oxford Academy in nearby Cypress, and his fried Matt Fisher, 16 who is a student at Whitney High School in Cerritos, both said they couldn’t believe “this stuff happens in places like Cerritos. You hear about this happening in other places around the world, not here,” said Teloma.
Marvin Brown, 54, who is a graduate from Cerritos High School in 1976, and a resident of Cerritos for more than 40 years said he heard about the controversial video a “few days ago.”
“I am a political junkie at heart,” Brown, who was donning a hat promoting the reelection of President Barack Obama, said “watching this world-wide situation unfold literally a block from where I grew up is surreal.”
“I think this guy (Nakoula) is going to be in big trouble,” said Brown.
Mohammad Dehdul, 20, a graduate of Cerritos High School said he has lived in Cerritos his “entire life, and this community is about diversity, not about hate. This is just plain crazy.”
Shebani Patel, 20, another former Cerritos High School graduate said she found out about the news when her mother came running into he house and saw dozens of news reporters on her street. “What in the world has happened to our neighborhood,” said Patel.
To contact Randy Economy or Los Cerritos Community Newspaper, please call (562) 407-3873.
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