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March 3, 2017 10:56 am

Arrest Made in Connection With Recent Bomb Threats Targeting US Jewish Community

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

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The scene outside the JCC in Nashville, Tenn., following a recent spate of bomb threats on Jewish centers across the US. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

Police tape outside the JCC in Nashville following a recent bomb threat. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

An arrest has been made in connection with some of the recent bomb threats that have targeted the US Jewish community, the Justice Department announced on Friday.

The suspect was identified as 31-year-old Juan Thompson of St. Louis.

Since the start of 2017, there have been five waves of bomb threats against dozens of Jewish community centers and day schools across America. Jewish cemeteries have also been desecrated in St. Louis, Philadelphia and Rochester.

According to the unsealed FBI complaint against him, Thompson — who was arrested in Missouri on Friday morning — made at least eight threats against JCCs, and also the Anti-Defamation League, “as part of a sustained campaign to harass and intimidate” an ex-girlfriend. Thompson has been charged with one count of cyberstalking, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

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US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara stated, “Everyone deserves to be free from fear and discrimination based on religion, race, or ethnicity; that is fundamental to who we are as a nation. Together with the FBI and the NYPD, we have been investigating the recent threats made on Jewish Community Centers in New York and around the country. Today, we have charged Juan Thompson with allegedly stalking a former romantic interest by, among other things, making bomb threats in her name to Jewish community centers and to the Anti-Defamation League. Threats of violence targeting people and places based on religion or race — whatever the motivation — are unacceptable, un-American, and criminal. We are committed to pursuing and prosecuting those who foment fear and hate through such criminal threats.”

William F. Sweeney Jr. — the assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York field office — noted, “Thompson’s alleged pattern of harassment not only involved the defamation of his female victim, but his threats intimidated an entire community. The FBI and our partners take these crimes seriously. I would also like to thank the NYPD and the New York State Police, who continue to work shoulder to shoulder with us as we investigate and track down every single threat and work together to achieve justice for our communities that have been victimized by these threats.”

New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill added, “The defendant allegedly 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 peddle fear, making false claims about serious crimes. I’m grateful for the collaboration between the NYPD detectives, FBI agents, and prosecutors whose cross-country investigation led to this morning’s arrest.”

The Anti-Defamation League — whose New York headquarters received a bomb threat last month — tweeted just after the news of the arrest broke, “FBI, NYPD, and NYS police told us arrest made in bomb threats against ADL; several other Jewish institutions. Thx 2 them! More info as get it.”

Later, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement, “We are relieved and gratified that the FBI has made an arrest in these cases. We applaud law enforcement’s unwavering effort to resolve this matter. We look forward to the quick resolution of the remaining open cases.”

The Secure Community Network — the national homeland security initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations — tweeted, “Arrest in St. Louis in regards to at least 8 bomb threats, but is not believed to be responsible for the majority of the recent bomb threats.”

In its statement about the arrest, the ADL confirmed online speculation that Thompson was a former reporter for The Intercept whose journalism career fell apart due to the use of fabricated quotes and sources.

In his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, President Donald Trump said the ongoing upsurge of antisemitic incidents was a reminder that “while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.”

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