FBI Eyeing 6 Suspects After Bomb Threats At Black Colleges

(AP) – As the nation’s historically Black colleges remain on edge after receiving dozens of bomb threats in recent weeks, federal law enforcement officials said they have identified six suspects who they believe are responsible for most of the racially motivated crimes.

More than a third of America’s 101 historically Black colleges and universities have been targeted by calls or emails threatening to set off bombs on their campuses since early January, with the vast majority arriving during the celebration of Black History Month in February. The threats are being investigated as hate crimes.

At a congressional hearing Thursday, federal law enforcement agencies said they are working aggressively to make arrests in the 59 cases, calling the case their “highest priority.” All six suspects are juveniles, according to the FBI.

Ryan Young, executive assistant director of the FBI intelligence branch, said investigators have identified “one person and a small group,” although some of the threats may have been copycat crimes.
“Our intention is to bring these individuals to justice,” Young told the House Oversight Committee.

The Biden administration this week announced a series of actions in response to the threats. The Education Department on Wednesday issued guidance to help colleges navigate threats and get help from federal agencies. Vice President Kamala Harris, the nation’s first Black vice president and an alumna of Howard University, a historically Black institution in Washington, also notified colleges they are eligible for grants meant to help schools recover from violence.

No explosives have been found in connection with the threats, but students say the prospect of violence has loomed over their lives. The threats have prompted lockdowns and evacuations, sometimes late at night, leaving students anxious and uneasy.

The threats began in early January but picked up on February 1, the first day of Black History Month, when 18 colleges were threatened on the same day. Some have come as recently as Monday, when Morehouse College in Atlanta locked down its campus in response to a bomb threat.

The vast majority of the threats have been made by phone, with a small number coming in emails or other online messages, said Young, of the FBI. Investigators have had trouble tracing some threats that were made using encryption technology, he added.

Young declined to provide further details on the six juveniles, but he said they “know they are under the scope of an investigation.”

The investigation is spread across 31 FBI field offices along with other units including its cyber crimes division.