Federal officials have begun making arrests in connection to the numerous bomb threats called into Jewish community centers.
On Friday, New York City Police unsealed a complaint charging Juan Thompson, a former Intercept writer from Missouri, for cyberstalking and calling up to eight bomb threats into JCCs.
Notably, officials say Thompson’s arrest does not close the investigations into recent bomb threats made to JCCs. Rather, Thompson is tied to threats from late January and early February, and reportedly made them to “settle a personal score.”
It was part of a greater “harassment campaign against a woman,” NBC’s Bradd Jaffy reported. On February 24, Thompson tweeted about the bomb threats, alleging a “nasty/racist” woman was calling in the threats in his name.
Thompson tweeted and retweeted others about the bomb threats, raising concern about the kids that are cared for in the community centers during the middle of the day.
Another week, another round of threats against Jewish ppl. In the middle of the day, you know who's at a JCC? Kids. KIDS.— Juan M. Thompson (@JuanMThompson) February 27, 2017
Through his Twitter account, Thompson has been identified as the former Intercept writer who was fired for fabricating sources and stories — an unusual narrative that might become easy fodder for the White House, which has suggested that the calls are “false flags,” an idea that undermines the validity of the threats.
A rise in hate-fueled incidents has been met by some skepticism in the White House
Federal officials have been investigating a recent wave of bomb threats and hate crimes for several months. But until recently, President Donald Trump has been relatively quiet on the issue. He did not comment with any specificity until his opening remarks to a joint session of Congress in late February, where he denounced the threats and recent attacks as “hate and evil.”
Reports have suggested there has been a spike in hate crimes in the United States since Trump’s election. On February 27, 21 bomb threats were called into 13 JCCs and eight Jewish day schools in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. A JCC in California was also evacuated. As Vox’s Sarah Wildman reported, the “calls bring the number of threats to 90 since the beginning of January.” A Philadelphia-area Jewish cemetery was also vandalized over the weekend — the third Jewish cemetery desecration since Trump’s presidency.
Despite ultimately acknowledging the “horrible and painful” hatred behind these acts in his address to Congress, earlier that day, it was reported that Trump was skeptical of the authenticity of the threats, hinting that they might be a “false flag” operation by his political opponents.
"He just said, 'Sometimes it's the reverse, to make people — or to make others — look bad,’” Attorney General Josh Shapiro told BuzzFeed after speaking with the president on the issue. “And he used the word 'reverse' I would say two to three times in his comments. He did correctly say at the top that it was reprehensible."
While Thompson’s arrest indicates an unusual and unique situation — from his history as a serial fabricator to his repeated harassment of his ex-girlfriend, which it seems the bombs threats were a part of — the complaint does make one thing clear: The spate of hate crimes and threats of violence are much bigger than one arrest.