Police say nationwide wave of bomb threats is not ‘credible’

Passengers stand outside King subway station after a bomb threat was made in Toronto, Ontario, Canada December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Authorities across the country said they were responding Thursday to bomb threats made to several locations, though some law enforcement officials were quick to say that these messages were not believed to be credible.

Similar threats appeared to stretch from coast to coast, prompting investigations on colleges campuses in Washington state and Pennsylvania and spreading across cities such as New York, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco.

Police in New York said the threats they received were “sent electronically” to places across the city, and they linked these messages to the others reported nationwide.

“We are currently monitoring multiple bomb threats that have been sent electronically to various locations throughout the city,” the New York Police Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau said in a message posted on Twitter. “These threats are also being reported to other locations nationwide & are NOT considered credible at this time.”

The threats on Thursday came less than two months after a Florida man was arrested and charged with mailing homemade package bombs to opponents of President Donald Trump. Threatening messages also have forced evacuations and spurred unease in communities across the country in recent years. Last year, a young man in Israel was arrested and charged with making threats to Jewish communities and institutions in the United States, all through phone calls and emails. In 2015, threatening emails later viewed as a hoax prompted the Los Angeles school system to shut down every school.

As word of the threatening messages spread Thursday, the FBI said in a statement that it was “aware of the recent bomb threats made in cities around the country, and we remain in touch with our law enforcement partners to provide assistance. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety.”

Other law enforcement agencies and academic institutions echoed the message from the New York police. A spokesman for the Chicago police said that city had received threats similar to the others received but noted that there was “no elevated threat level” there.

In the District of Columbia, police said they responded to a dozen bomb threats by Thursday afternoon, all made by email and linked to similar threats nationwide. All the threats in the District turned out to be false, a D.C. police spokesman said. These calls, most of which came between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m., forced the shutdown of multiple streets and evacuations of buildings while police searched the floors.

Many threats appeared to have targeted private D.C. businesses. Many of those businesses were in downtown or in other areas with heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic, so the threats and evacuations caused disruptions on major streets.

The San Francisco police said they responded to threats received at about 10 a.m. local time across the city, noting that there were “similar threats” in “several other cities across the United States.”

The police in Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second-largest city, said businesses there received “what appears to be a robo-email saying there is a bomb threat to their business unless they pay money in Bitcoins.” But, the department added, it “found no credible evidence any of these emails are authentic.”

News outlets also reported that they had to evacuate their buildings because of the threats. The Park Record building in Utah was evacuated after staffers received the message, the outlet reported.

The News and Observer in Raleigh also reported that it was forced to evacuate its building. Police in Raleigh said they responded to a threat the newspaper said was made over email shortly before 1:15 p.m. A spokeswoman for the department said police “searched and cleared the location.”

Academic institutions were not immune. A spokeswoman for Pennsylvania State University said the campus police, along with the FBI, were “investigating a message received by individuals in multiple locations on campus and across the state.” She said that the message on campus was sent via email to eight buildings or facilities there.

“At this time, police say the threat appears to be part of a national hoax, however, an investigation is ongoing,” the spokeswoman said.

The University of Washington said it was “investigating threatening emails sent to individuals on campus” and swept buildings before the campus police “determined there is no safety concern.” The school said the FBI had “advised that the email is not a credible threat.”



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