Threat to LA schools believed to have been a hoax

LA congressman says threat that prompted closure of local schools was not a real one.

Ben Ariel ,

Aftermath of San Bernardino shooting
Aftermath of San Bernardino shooting

The threat that prompted Los Angeles Unified School District officials to close all schools appears to be a hoax, congressman Adam Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Tuesday afternoon.

"The preliminary assessment is that it was a hoax or something designed to disrupt school districts in large cities. The investigation is ongoing as to where the threat originated from and who was responsible," Schiff (D-Burbank) said in a statement quoted by the LA Times.

Another local congressman, Brad Sherman, said the person who sent an email threat to several Los Angeles Unified School board members claimed to be the victim of bullying and "an extremist Muslim who has teamed up with local jihadists", but showed no real knowledge of Islam.

"There isn't a person on the street who couldn't have written this," said Sherman, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, according to the LA Times.

The only thing known, Sherman said, was that the email was "sent by an evil person."

The email also mentioned explosive devices, assault rifles and pistols and was traced to an IP address in Frankfurt, Germany, according to law enforcement sources.

Earlier it was announced that all LA Unified campuses would be closed after receiving what officials have called a "credible threat" of violence involving backpacks and packages left at campuses.

Still, one law enforcement source familiar with the evidence told the LA Times there was no sign that "this individual is actually capable of carrying out the threat."

New York Police officials had said on Tuesday that a similar threat had also been made on schools in their region, but that it was not credible and they were concerned about overreacting.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said because the email appeared "so generic, so outlandish" it wasn't taken seriously.

"It would be a huge disservice to our nation to close down our school system," he said.

The alert came days after the shooting massacre in San Bernardino, California, where married couple Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people.

The FBI has said Farook and Malik were both radicalized "for quite some time" and had taken target practice at Los Angeles-area shooting ranges, and once "within days" of the massacre.

It is believed Farook had contact with people from at least two terrorist organizations overseas, and investigators have also said Malik had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) group in a Facebook posting.