What happened in the stalking incident, Musk cited to ban @ElonJet


LOS ANGELES — A confrontation between a member of Elon Musk’s security team and an alleged stalker whom Musk blamed on a Twitter account tracking his jet took place at a gas station 26 miles from Los Angeles International Airport and 23 hours after the @ElonJet account had last located the plane’s whereabouts.

The timing and location of the confrontation cast doubt on Musk’s claim that the account had posted real-time “assassination coordinates” that threatened his family and led to the confrontation. Police have said little about the incident, but say they have yet to find a link between the confrontation and the jet-tracking account.

The incident last week triggered a sweeping rewrite of Twitter’s rules and suspensions of half a dozen journalists’ accounts, which were condemned by free speech campaigners. It also underscored how Musk’s personal concerns could affect his management of a social media platform used by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

As the sole owner of Twitter, Musk can dictate policies as he pleases. Musk dissolved Twitter’s board, which at other companies may have influenced the company’s response to the incident, as well as its longtime “trust and safety” committee that had advised the social media platform on its policies. No executive at Twitter has the stature to balance Musk’s directives.

As previously reported by The Washington Post, the incident occurred in South Pasadena, a suburb of Los Angeles, on Tuesday at 9:45 p.m. South Pasadena police were called to the gas station, according to the business manager, but made no arrests. South Pasadena police have not responded to requests for comment.

Los Angeles police said in a statement Thursday that its threat management unit was in contact with Musk’s representatives and security team, but that no crime reports had been filed. Police did not respond to requests for updates Sunday.

Using a video of the incident that Musk posted on Twitter, The Post identified the owner of the car involved and then the driver shown in the video who had rented it through the car-sharing service Turo.

The car’s renter, Brandon Collado, confirmed in interviews with The Post that he was the person shown in the video. He also provided The Post with videos he took of Musk’s security guard that matched what Musk had posted on Twitter.

In his conversations with The Post, Collado acknowledged that he has an interest in Musk and the mother of two of Musk’s children, the musician known as Grimes, whose real name is Claire Elise Boucher. Boucher lives in a house near the gas station.

In his communication with The Post, Collado, who said he was a driver for Uber Eats, also made several bizarre and unsupported claims, including that he believed Boucher sent him coded messages through her Instagram posts; that Musk monitored his real-time location; and that Musk could control Uber Eats to block him from receiving delivery orders. He said he was in Boucher’s neighborhood to work for Uber Eats.

Musk did not respond to emailed and tweeted requests from The Post to discuss the incident. Boucher did not respond to requests for comment.

Due to the concentration of high-profile individuals, stalking is a pervasive problem in Los Angeles. After 21-year-old actress Rebecca Schaeffer was shot to death in the doorway of her Los Angeles home in 1989 by an obsessive fan, the city enacted several measures intended to protect targets of stalking, such as restrictions on public access to address information from California driving records and a specialized police unit focused on the problem.

However, in 2015, actress and singer Selena Gomez was forced to move out of her $4.5 million home due to a relentless stalker. Actress Sandra Bullock recently opened up about the trauma and PTSD she experienced after a stalker broke into her home in 2014. In 2012, a man accused of stalking actress Halle Berry was sentenced to over a year in prison.

Boucher has also been the target of stalking. In 2018, she was granted a restraining order against a man named Raymond Barrajas after he showed up at her home and said he believed she was secretly communicating with him through her music.

Marc Madero, a Los Angeles police detective with the unit that investigates high-profile stalking cases, told The Post that the unit has been investigating a man accused of stalking Boucher. After the confrontation at the gas station, Musk’s security team notified police, who began investigating whether the man in the video was the same alleged stalker, Madero said. He said the unit has yet to make a decision and is continuing to investigate.

Madero said the video of the man suggested he had tried to hide his identity, including wearing gloves and partially covering his face. But he said his unit had no evidence to suggest the man police were investigating had used the jet tracking account. He noted that stalkers often use “open source searches from a targeted person,” adding, “Nothing would surprise me.”

Musk tweeted Thursday that reporters had been “aware of the violent stalker and yet rejected the real-time location of my family.” He did not say which journalists he was referring to or provide evidence. The Post was unaware of the incident until Musk tweeted about it. A review of the internet found no news stories about a stalker. A volunteer with the investigative journalism group Bellingcat used the video Musk posted locate the event to the gas station.

Musk’s jet landed in Los Angeles last Monday, Dec. 12, after a flight from Oakland, said the @ElonJet account, citing flight information, known as ADS-B data, that is legally and routinely collected by aviation enthusiasts and posted on public websites such as the ADS-B Exchange.

Musk had been in San Francisco the night before, and was booed on stage at Dave Chappelle’s comedy show. Three days earlier he had posted another picture of San Francisco to his 2-year-old son, X Æ A-Xii, whom Musk refers to as “X.”

The incident took place at the gas station on Tuesday, Dec. 13, about 15 minutes before the station closed, according to the manager, Daniel Santiago, who was working that night. Santiago said he was surprised when the car Collado was driving pulled into the Arco station and into the space next to Santiago’s car, which is not a normal place for a customer to park.

He said the incident was captured on the gas station’s security camera and the footage was turned over to South Pasadena police on Thursday.

According to the video of the incident that Musk posted, the member of Musk’s security team confronted Collado while sitting in the car wearing gloves and a hood. “Yeah, pretty sure. Got it,” the Musk security team member can be heard saying in the video.

What happened between the two men before they arrived at the gas station is unknown. There is no indication in videos shared with The Post that Musk’s children were present.

Collado claimed he was delivering Uber Eats and visiting a friend when he pulled into the gas station and said Musk’s security worker then confronted him for no reason. Collado said he believed Musk was monitoring his real-time location.

Two videos of the altercation Collado shared with The Post show him getting out of the rental car and standing in front of a Toyota driven by Musk’s security staff.

Shortly after the incident, South Pasadena police officers arrived at the gas station, questioned Collado and told him they would file a report, Collado said.

On Saturday, Collado tweeted at Musk: “I’m the guy in this video … you have connections with me and have been stalking me and my family for over a year.” Collado said he has not been contacted by police since Tuesday night.

After the incident at the gas station, Twitter changed its rules to prohibit the sharing of any “live location information,” including links to other sites that noted “travel routes, actual physical location, or other identifying information that would reveal an individual’s location, regardless of whether that information is public available.”

It also suspended @ElonJet, its operator, Jack Sweeney, and dozens of his other jet-tracking accounts, which monitored the public movements of sports teams, political figures and Russian oligarchs.

Twitter also suspended reporters from The Post, New York Times, CNN and other news organizations covering the @ElonJet suspensions. Two former employees in contact with Twitter employees told The Post that the suspensions were at one point marked as “the direction of Elon.”

Musk representatives have previously asked the Federal Aviation Administration to limit the sharing of certain flight records, using a program known as Limiting Aircraft Data Displayed. But such requests do not prevent the transmission of ADS-B data, which comes from unencrypted signals sent from the planes, and which anyone with the right equipment can receive from the ground.

On Sunday, Musk posted videos showing that he attended the World Cup match in Qatar. When someone in the stands shared photos showing Musk in attendance, Twitter users noted that the details could be classified as real-time location information, the kind Musk had labeled “assassination coordinates,” and were no longer allowed.

Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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