(ST. LOUIS) — A man accused of making at least eight threats against Jewish Community Centers in the U.S. has been arrested by the FBI in St. Louis, Missouri.
The suspect, 31-year-old Juan Thompson, is accused in what federal prosecutors called a “campaign to harass and intimidate.” He’s charged in New York with cyberstalking a woman by communicating threats to JCCs in the woman’s name. Prosecutors said Thompson “appears to have made at least eight of the JCC threats as part of a sustained campaign to harass and intimidate” the woman after their romantic relationship ended.
The arrest comes after nearly 100 JCCs and schools nationwide received bomb threats this year in five separate waves. The most recent was on Feb. 27 when 21 bomb threats were called in to 13 JCCs and eight Jewish schools in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia, the JCC Association of North America said.
No bombs were found at any of the locations.
There have been 90 incidents this year at 73 locations in 30 states and one Canadian province, the JCC Association said. The FBI and the Justice Department’s civil rights division launched an investigation.
As the number of incidents grew, FBI agents feared the volume could lead people to start ignoring the threats and stop evacuating facilities. That, agents worried, could present an opportunity for a location loaded with kids to be bombed. The NYPD was worried that the evacuations were creating large groups outside that could become targets for shooting or ramming.
“The defendant caused havoc, expending hundreds of hours of police and law enforcement resources to respond and investigate these threats. We will continue to pursue those who pedal fear, making false claims about serious crimes,” said New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill. “I’m grateful for the collaboration between the NYPD detectives, FBI agents, and prosecutors whose cross-country investigation led to this morning’s arrest.”
Tombstones have also been desecrated at three Jewish cemeteries within the past two weeks; one near St. Louis, Missouri, one in Philadelphia and one in Rochester, New York.
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