Los Angeles County Sheriff spokesman Steve Whitmore talks to the members of the media in Cerritos, Calif. near a home that is believed to be the residence
Los Angeles County Sheriff spokesman Steve Whitmore talks to the members of the media in Cerritos, Calif. near a home that is believed to be the residence of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man behind a film that sparked outrage in the Middle East (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

CERRITOS — The man believed to be behind an anti-Muslim film that sparked outrage in the Middle East lives in an upper-middle-class home on a cul de sac in Cerritos, where he shot footage for at least part of the film.

U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in attacks on the U.S. Embassy due to outrage over the low-budget, roughly 12-minute film that has circulated widely on the Internet.

VIDEO: Neighbors of man believed to be behind anit-Muslim film react

Federal authorities say the shadowy figure behind the film is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, a Cerritos man once convicted of financial crimes and prohibited from using computers or the Internet as part of his sentence.

Nakoula claimed the name Sam Bacile in interviews with the media.

Keat Saw, a neighbor to the Park Street home where Nakoula lives, said his 12-year-old is a friend and classmate of Nakoula's son and recognized film footage of the inside of the Cerritos home.

"Our children play together," Saw said. "They got along very well. (The Nakoulas) seemed like fine people."

Officials with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said they responded to the home Tuesday for a call of a disturbance about 8:45 p.m. Sheriff's deputies entered the house, determined no crime had been committed, said Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Sheriff's Department.


Advertisement

"There is no disturbance (here); there is no crime," Whitmore said. "The reason why we're still here monitoring the neighborhood is because of you (news media representatives). Regrettably, this kind of attention attracts other people.

"We are maintaining public safety for this community, as we would for any community," Whitmore said. "And that's all we're doing, and all we will continue to do."

Los Angeles County Sheriff spokesman Steve Whitmore talks to the members of the media in Cerritos, Calif. near a home that is believed to be the residence
Los Angeles County Sheriff spokesman Steve Whitmore talks to the members of the media in Cerritos, Calif. near a home that is believed to be the residence of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man behind a film that sparked outrage in the Middle East (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

Roughly 50 to 60 reporters and videographers descended on the neighborhood near Bloomfield Avenue, some bringing folding chairs and satellite dishes. The "Today" show is also filming there.

Whitmore said the only reason deputies were still there was to contain the crowd.

Neighbors said they believe the residents are home, but are refusing to come out. Saw said they have lived in the home for about 10 years.

None of the family's three cars - one parked in the driveway, another haphazardly in the middle of the driveway and a pickup truck along the curb - had been moved since Tuesday night, neighbors said. All three had Coptic crosses hanging from the rear-view mirrors.

One resident of the home reportedly answered the door Tuesday night, but none of the occupants has talked to media.

Members of the Cerritos City Council were briefed on the situation Wednesday, but none of them knew Nakoula.

"I don't know him personally, and there's no connection to the city," said Councilwoman Carol Chen. "We were all shocked to hear it on the news."

Neighbors said they were surprised that such an inflammatory film could have been shot in Cerritos, a middle-class city with a diverse population.

Meanwhile, officials in Duarte insisted that "Innocence of Muslims" was not filmed at a studio in that city, although the company believed to be responsible for the film, Media for Christ, has had a business license in Duarte since 2006. City officials said the film permit for the project indicates the filming was done at Blue Cloud Movie Ranch in Santa Clarita.

Duarte officials said sheriff's deputies would be conducting "periodic patrol checks" of the company's offices and surrounding areas over the next few days.

Staff reporters Greg Mellen and Phil Zonkel contributed to this report.

tracy.manzer@presstelegram.com, 562-714-2150