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The Hacker Community Talks About the Anonymous Activist Killed by Canadian Cops

James Daniel McIntyre was a "sweet guy" who hacked credit cards and gave the money to charity, according to those who knew him.
August 10, 2015, 5:45pm

James McIntyre's death. Photo via Facebook video

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

James Daniel McIntyre was an introverted and sincere person who felt targeted by the police for years prior to his death, say members of the online hacker community who knew and communicated with him on a regular basis.

While information has trickled out on 48-year-old McIntyre, who was killed by police in the early evening of July 16 outside a BC Hydro public information session on the Site C dam, much is still unclear about the circumstances of his death and who he was.

What is known about McIntyre centers largely on his death: a lonely figure in a grey hoodie and Guy Fawkes mask, shot outside the Fixx Urban Grill in Dawson Creek, where he lived.

There are accounts of him holding a knife, from both police and traveling businessman Mike Irmen, who told the National Post that even after McIntyre was shot he wouldn't surrender it. McIntyre swiftly became a flashpoint for hacker collective Anonymous, who claimed him as one of their own. Within 24 hours, they issued a statement that called for the arrest of the officer involved and vowed to avenge his death.

Since then, Anonymous swiftly made good on their threats of retaliation, announcing that they had attacked RCMP cyber infrastructure (which the RCMP denied). They then leaked what appears to be a government Treasury Board document from 2010 and claim to have decrypted text messages that allegedly reveal the real reason former federal cabinet minister John Baird left his office.

Their latest leak are documents they claim detail a court case between businessman Nathan Jacobson and CSIS, and Anonymous have said there will be more substantial Canadian cabinet leaks in the fall.

Though McIntyre's death has landed him at the center of a national controversy, who he was remains unclear. No photos of him have yet been made public, nor have family members been willing to come forward. He worked at Le's Family Restaurant, but neither staff nor ownership have said much about him publicly.

"He might be an ordinary dishwasher in real life but online he was a big shot," said a woman who goes by the Twitter handle @tsargirl in an interview via online chat. Tsargirl claims to be part of the Anonymous splinter group Antisec and says her and McIntyre pulled off a number of hacks.

Regularly in contact with McIntyre for years, she was one of the last people he messaged the day he died, in which he cryptically wrote, "No malfunction, some1 is watching us. We have played this game b4. Reverse Engineering, trying 2 trap/locate them."

"I have a strong feeling that he was targeted," she said. "Because he was attached to Kabuki and other German top hacker groups who really caused chaos."

Though they never met in person, she first came across McIntyre three years back when he followed her as the Twitter user @jaymack9 after she "hacked [a] bunch of sites."

She paints a picture of a man who spoke fluent German and whose English had a thick accent.

From what she remembers, he had roots back in Germany, but was from an Alaskan town where his family was in the wood business. She estimates he had moved to Dawson Creek about four years ago.

They took at least two years to get to know one another, and eventually made the rare move of sharing their real names. Describing herself as a nomad who frequently moves around the globe and often goes into hiding, she had planned to travel to Dawson Creek this December to finally meet McIntyre in person. Maybe she could even stay put for a while, she thought.

"He's one of the sweetest guys I've ever met virtually," said Tsargirl. "He was emotionally very supportive. He thought of me as a friend he could trust and I felt the same way about it. We would actually discuss personal affairs with each other. At one time I got pregnant by a sick bastard and went through an abortion. It was James who knew and he helped me out emotionally by staying in touch 24/7. God I miss him."

They began to pull off hacking actions in association with a variety of other online activists, she claims, including two hackers who went by the names Frillox and Tarzan.

Tarzan, died in a car accident last year, had met James in person and it was through this connection that she began to trust McIntyre more, she said.

"Tarzan, Jay, and I were a real trio. Then came others. I taught Tarzan how to steal credit cards and donate money to hungry worldwide, like [through] UNICEF. We donated like 50,000 plus US dollars to charities," she claimed, and added that actions like this fit into McIntyre's beliefs of the power of the 99 percent—that governments shouldn't control a nation's decisions. "I was mostly the hands on. Tarzan identified the targets, Jay gathered the info and acquired more info when needed, and we actually helped people. Didn't use a single penny on ourselves. Never."

In a blog post written in the days after McIntyre's death, former Anonymous associate Devon Hall, who works at Surrey Youth Alliance, said she met McIntyre while he was busy with OpLithChild. Launched in 2012, it was an Anonymous-initiated campaign focused on a high-profile pedophile case in Lithuania.

"He was bound and determined to end child sex slavery, even when we knew it was a lost cause. J never stopped fighting against sex slavery in women, men, and children. He believed every person on the planet should have enough to eat, sleep, and be safe," she wrote. "I don't think I will ever have the pleasure of knowing someone as devoted to doing the right thing as this man was."

As Tsargirl continued to interact regularly with McIntyre, often on a daily basis over the last three years, she noticed his ongoing apprehension of the police, and said he talked often about being tracked and monitored.

"It was like he always had a fear that he was being watched. Police cars parked outside his place... He always said 'the police' so I assume it was Dawson Creek's," she said. "One time he literally shut down his computer and said bye for a month. He said police was downstairs watching him."

Early on in 2012, Frillox remembers McIntyre got scared about a pastebin file concerning Mossad surveillance, and at the time he didn't pay much attention to it.

"Many hackers get paranoid in some way," he told VICE via online chat. "Its just a course, if it's true or not, who am I, to judge on that?"

Another online friend, Davood Hersh (not his real name), who goes by the Twitter handle @webwildink, said he and McIntyre talked often about the possibility of being jailed or worse, and agreed to look out for one another.

"When [then-Natural Resources minister] Joe Oliver called environmentalists radicals, we both laughed. We both understood the serious nature being a 'so called radical' in BC because of the history here, but it didn't bother us," wrote Hersh via email. "James shared the same view that one day we could get hurt, jailed, or killed. We were both being monitored. Cars outside and our computers breached. We were both monitored at the same time, James where he lived and me here in Agassiz and in Penticton."

By all accounts McIntyre shied away from confrontation, was reserved and rarely public about his activism and never talked about violence.

Thus far, the only record of how his life ended is contained within some blurry footage recorded from what appears to be the hotel across the street, which was then subsequently uploaded onto Facebook by a man named Corey Pfeifer.

Missing from the video are the events leading up to the shooting, but as McIntyre lays bleeding, the officer kicks at something on the ground. Canada's Independent Investigations Office have since said a knife was later recovered from the scene.

"It was a switchblade," commented Pfeifer on Facebook, below the video.

It was likely a small Swiss Army-style knife, said Tsargirl, who feels certain about this detail because they had joked about it once, how silly it was that they both carried pocket knives on them for defense.

"It just came up one time when I was temporarily somewhere in hiding. He was telling me how to set traps outside the door and set up alarms and was concerned for my safety," she said.

As McIntyre's friends struggle with the aftermath of his death and the space it has left in their lives, questions remain about who will be held accountable.

"My world has lost a dear friend and it hurts, and I can't do anything about it," said Hersh.

"I'm angry that he was killed because I never knew him as being someone that deserved that kind of treatment. Environmentalists are caring people, not bad people."

It could take up to a year for the investigation to reach a conclusion, according to the IIO, whose investigators have now left Dawson Creek, reported Jonny Wakefield in the Alaska Highway News on July 29.

The article also notes that since April 1, six people have been shot by police in BC.

Follow Julie Chadwick on Twitter.