FBI investigating bomb threats at HBCUs as hate crimes

Race in America

(NewsNation Now) — One of the callers behind a series of recent threats against historically Black colleges claimed to be associated with a neo-Nazi group, according to a Florida police chief who spoke to the person.

The threats are being investigated as hate crimes and appear to be racially motivated, according to the FBI. The bureau has said that getting to the bottom of the threats is its highest priority.

As of Thursday, investigators had identified several people of interest in connection with the bomb threats made in recent weeks. Reports as to the exact number of identified individuals are conflicting. At least five people have been identified as persons of interest, according to the Associated Press, which spoke to a law enforcement official on the condition of anonymity. Another report that came first from NBC News said the FBI had identified six juveniles as persons of interest.

The agency hasn’t disclosed how they tracked down the suspects and no arrests have been made.

At least a half-dozen historically Black universities in five states and the District of Columbia received bomb threats Monday, and at least a dozen more schools received such threats Tuesday. Many of the schools locked down their campuses for a time. Authorities found no bombs after extensive searches.

Investigators have said they believe a spoofed phone number was used to make the threats.

Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young said he spoke with a caller who claimed to be affiliated with the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division.

In May, a federal judge in Virginia sentenced former Atomwaffen Division leader John Cameron Denton to more than three years in prison for his role in a conspiracy to make bogus bomb threats and 911 calls to more than 100 targets, including a Black church. Others charged in the “swatting” scheme were affiliated with or expressed sympathy for the group.

Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said he is “reserving judgment” for now on whether Atomwaffen is connected to the bomb threat investigation.

In addition to Florida, threats were sent to schools in Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi and other states.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has called the threats disturbing, and said the White House is in touch with federal law enforcement officials.

The bomb scares come at the start of Black History Month, and less than a month after a series of bomb threats were made to multiple historically Black universities Jan. 4.

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