Email threat closes all L.A. schools; NYC officials call it a hoax

LOS ANGELES -- The nation's two biggest school systems -- New York City and Los Angeles -- received threats of a large-scale attack Tuesday with guns and bombs, and LA reacted by shutting down the entire district, while New York dismissed the warning as an amateurish hoax and held class as usual.

See Full Article

The shutdown was a rare example of big city closing its entire school district because of fears of an attack. The decision also reflected lingering unease in the aftermath of the shooting that killed 14 people at an office holiday party less than two weeks ago in nearby San Bernardino.

In LA, the threat came in the form of an email to a school board member. Authorities in New York reported receiving the same "generic" email that was sent to other cities around the country. They decided there was no danger to schoolchildren, with Mayor Bill de Blasio concluding the threat contained "nothing credible."

"It was so outlandish," he said.

New York Police Commissioner William Bratton agreed, quipping that it looked like the sender of the threat had watched a lot of the Showtime terrorism drama "Homeland."

The shutdown abruptly closed more than 900 public schools and 187 charter schools attended by 640,000 students across Los Angeles.

LA officials defended the move.

"It is very easy in hindsight to criticize a decision based on results the decider could never have known," LA Police Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference.

The threatening email sent to the New York City school superintendent warned that schools would be attacked with pressure cooker bombs, nerve agents and machine-guns. It claimed the writer and "138 comrades" would carry out the attack.

Students "at every school in the New York City school district will be massacred, mercilessly. And there is nothing you can do to stop it," the message said.

The anonymous writer claimed to be a student at a district high school who had been bullied.

A law enforcement official with access to the document provided the email to The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to disclose details of an ongoing investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The person who wrote the note also claimed to be a jihadist but made errors that suggested the writer was really a prankster, including spelling the word "Allah" with a lowercase "a."

The threats came in simultaneously to New York and LA school officials at about 1:20 a.m. EST Tuesday, or about 10:20 p.m. Monday in Los Angeles.

According to LA school police, the FBI and LA police were contacted late Monday, which would mean within 90 minutes or so of the threat arriving.

The decision to close Los Angeles schools was announced at 6:25 a.m. PST, well after NYC had already concluded the threat was a hoax and decided to keep schools open.

Los Angeles Superintendent Ramon Cortines said every campus would be searched before schools reopened.

Bratton called the closure in Los Angeles a "significant overreaction."

"We cannot allow ourselves to raise levels of fear," said Bratton, who once ran the LA Police Department.

Hours later, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee also said the threat was believed to be a hoax.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he would not second-guess the decisions made in Los Angeles or New York.

The decision to close the district disrupted the morning routines of many Los Angeles families.

Lupita Vela, who has a daughter in the third grade and a son who is a high school senior, called the threat "absolutely terrifying" in light of the San Bernardino attack.

"I know the kids are anxious," she said.

Beck said the email was specific to all the campuses in the district.

The LA schools commonly get threats, but Cortines called this one rare and said the San Bernardino attack influenced his decision to close the entire district.

The threat "was not to one school, two schools or three schools," he said at a news conference. "It was many schools, not specifically identified. ... That's the reason I took the action that I did."

The superintendent said the district police chief informed him about the threat shortly after 5 a.m.

The person who sent the threat used an "anonymizer," which uses a proxy server to mask the origin of Internet traffic, and the email was routed through a German IP address on its way to the school board member's email box, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. The official, who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Vela said she worries about talking to her kids about the threat and terrorism in general. She's concerned about her daughter feeling safe in class.

"I don't want this to be in the back of her head," she said. "Who knows what it does psychologically to kids? Is this going to cause her some kind of trauma so that she's not going to feel safe at school?"

The closure came the same day classes were cancelled at San Bernardino Valley College because of a bomb threat.

------

Associated Press Writer Colleen Long in New York contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Rip currents, heavy rainfall expected as Gert glances Atlantic Canada

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- Environment Canada is warning of rip currents, rapidly changing water levels and heavy rainfall in parts of Atlantic Canada today as hurricane Gert glances the region. The national weather forecaster says while Gert will not have a direct impact on the Atlantic provinces, long-period swells are expected on the southern coasts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland with waves reaching up to four metres in some areas. Source
  • Malala Yousafzai to study at Oxford

    World News CTV News
    LONDON - Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has gained a place at the University of Oxford. The 20-year-old education activist tweeted her acceptance to the school, saying she was "so excited" to win a spot to study philosophy, politics and economics. Source
  • Barack Obama's post-Charlottesville message most-liked tweet ever

    World News CTV News
    Former U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his speech during the 4th Congress of Indonesian Diaspora Network in Jakarta, Indonesia, Saturday, July 1, 2017. (AP / Achmad Ibrahim) Source
  • Anti-Muslim Australian senator wears burqa in Parliament

    World News CTV News
    CANBERRA, Australia - An Australian senator provoked an angry backlash from lawmakers by wearing a burqa in Parliament on Thursday as part of her campaign for a national ban on Islamic face covers. Pauline Hanson, leader of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigration One Nation minor party, sat wearing the black head-to-ankle garment for more than 10 minutes before taking it off as she rose to explain that she wanted such outfits banned on national security grounds. Source
  • Trump isolated as CEOs abandon business councils

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump has abruptly dismantled two of his White House business councils-an apparent attempt to manage his increasing isolation and the continued fallout from his combative comments on racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Source
  • 'A broken system': Why workers are fighting mandatory mail-order drug plans

    Canada News CBC News
    Jamie Mueller has had heart problems since suffering complications from rheumatic fever as a child. Now 51, and mother to a 13-year-old girl, the longtime Labatt employee takes seven different pills a day. For 10 years, she filled her prescriptions at the same pharmacy in London, Ont. Source
  • Worried about PC Financial's move to CIBC? Here's what you need to know

    Canada News CBC News
    CIBC and President's Choice Financial are amicably breaking up a 20-year banking marriage and divvying up the assets — news one financial expert says isn't necessarily a good or bad thing for consumers. In a nutshell, President's Choice Financial will keep the PC Financial MasterCard credit card service and the PC Plus loyalty program, while the two million PC Financial banking customers will move to CIBC's new service called Simplii Financial. Source
  • No one should be surprised at Trump's thoughts about Charlottesville: Keith Boag

    World News CBC News
    No one who's paid any attention to what's been happening in the U.S. for the last two years could dare ask after Charlottesville, "How did it come to this?" Nor can those who truly understand the dark chapters of American history deny the darkness of this moment. Source
  • U.S. opens NAFTA talks with focus on trade balance — and a deficit of facts

    World News CBC News
    Robert Lighthizer didn't give a long speech on Wednesday to open the talks to renegotiate NAFTA. But he really didn't have to. Donald Trump's choice to get a better trade deal for the United States had only one message, one that comes straight from the president. Source
  • Flooding maroons people in India, eases in Nepal

    World News CTV News
    LUCKNOW, India - Monsoon flooding is easing in Nepal, but the water flowing downriver has worsened floods in northern India and marooned thousands of villagers across the border, officials said Thursday. The existing flood situation was aggravated in Uttar Pradesh state after three rivers became swelled with the waters from Nepal, said disaster relief official Mohammad Zameer Ahmad. Source