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FBI identifies 6 juveniles as persons of interest in bomb threats at Black colleges

The minors appear to be using sophisticated methods to disguise the source of the threats, which seem to have a racist motivation, a law enforcement official says.
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Six "tech savvy" juveniles have been identified as persons of interest by the FBI in threats to historically Black colleges and universities that appear to be racially motivated.

More than a dozen historically Black colleges and universities received bomb threats on Tuesday, the first day of Black History Month.

A law enforcement official says the FBI has identified six persons of interest around the country, all juveniles, who are suspected of making the threats. The official says they appear to be “tech savvy,” using sophisticated methods to try to disguise the source of the threats, which appear to have a racist motivation.

Howard University was among the first to issue a shelter-in-place order early Tuesday — just a day after the school and several other historically Black colleges and universities received similar threats.

A bomb threat against the university is being investigated,” an alert from Howard University said, according to NBC Washington. "All persons on campus are advised to shelter in place until more information is available.”

The emergency alert was timestamped at 3:29 a.m. Tuesday, the first day of Black History Month.

An all-clear was later issued for Howard following a probe.

In addition to Howard, the University of the District of Columbia, also in Washington, D.C., Morgan State University and Coppin State University in Baltimore, Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley, Georgia, Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Kentucky, Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, Edward Waters University in Jacksonville, Florida, Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi, Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, Mississippi, Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Spelman College in Atlanta, Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, and Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi, all reported bomb threats, according to school officials and social media posts.

Like Howard, Kentucky State, Jackson State, the University of the District of Columbia, Tougaloo College and Coppin State issued “all-clear” alerts after finding the threats to be unsubstantiated soon after reporting the threats.

Additional threats were reported at a number of other colleges and universities.

Morgan State University President David K. Wilson said in a statement to community members that he was saddened to confirm that the school had received a bomb threat after being asked by several people “whether this is real.”

“Unfortunately, and sadly, it is,” he said. “The campus is being searched building-by-building this morning with our residential halls being searched first.”

Wilson said nothing had been discovered within any of the school’s residential facilities.

“Morgan is one of the most historical and consequential universities in the nation. Our history has been one where we have endured all kinds of challenges and disruptions, but we have always emerged stronger,” he said.

“My message to you this morning is to stay strong, remain resilient, and continue to prepare yourselves to grow the future and lead the world because our nation and world desperately need more leaders steeped in the values we teach here at Morgan,” he said. “Those values are Leadership, Integrity, Innovation, Diversity, Excellence and Respect. Hate is not one of them!”

Wilson also said that he hoped the “bomb threats to our National Treasure, and to many of our other sister HBCU institutions, will be aggressively investigated by the FBI.”

In the wake of earlier bomb threats this month, the FBI said it would investigate the matter.

In statements released on Monday and Tuesday, it said it was taking action after the latest string of threats.

“The FBI is aware of the series of bomb threats around the country and we are working with our law enforcement partners to address any potential threats,” the FBI said.

“As always, we would like to remind members of the public that if they observe anything suspicious to report it to law enforcement immediately,” it added.

A number of schools alerted students and staff to the bomb threats over social media Tuesday morning.

In a Facebook post, Edward Waters said the school had received an anonymous bomb threat Tuesday morning.

“Effective immediately, all in-person activities, classes and university operations ... are cancelled until further notice,” it said, adding that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was on campus investigating the matter.

Fort Valley State University also warned students in a Facebook post that the school had received notice of a bomb threat. It said campus safety personnel and law enforcement were investigating.

“The campus is currently on lockdown,” they said, adding that residential students should shelter in place and remain in their residence halls. It said all other students and employees should not report to the campus until further notice.

On Monday, Howard had been one of at least six historically Black colleges and universities to receive bomb threats, prompting lockdowns and police investigations.

Among the other schools targeted were Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida, Albany State University in Georgia, Bowie State University in Maryland and Delaware State University in Dover, according to university officials and social media posts.

At least eight historically Black colleges had faced similar threats on Jan. 5, all of which were unfounded, officials said. 

On Monday, Howard spokesperson Frank Tramble confirmed that the university received a bomb threat.

He said that both Washington and Howard police had issued an “ALL CLEAR” message after an investigation. 

“Our priority is the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff and we vehemently condemn all actions that threaten the safety of our community,” Tramble said at the time.

Ashleigh Fields, 21, the editor-in-chief of Howard’s student newspaper, The Hilltop, said bomb threats are common in the area.

“As a student, it just reminds you to be aware and definitely be cautious of your surroundings,” Fields said.

She said that she hoped authorities would investigate into the matter more deeply.

“It’s unfortunate,” she said. “I hope things get explained to us as students as well, too, because that is pretty scary to hear.”