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Bomb threats made in Utah and across country, all appear to be hoaxes

Posted at 2:08 PM, Dec 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-13 22:38:12-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Dozens of institutions here in Utah and across the country received bomb threats via email, prompting evacuations and sweeps of buildings.

At this time it’s unclear if the threats — which have been received at locations throughout San Francisco, at the University of Washington in Seattle, and at Penn State University in Pennsylvania, among other places — are connected. The FBI said it is aware of the threats and is working with law enforcement to provide assistance.

“As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety,” the FBI said.

The threats were all said to be very similar and demanded $20,000 in bitcoin.

In Utah, bomb threats were made in several places including West Valley City, Park City and St. George.

Marissa Coates, a spokesperson with the Department of Public Safety, said there were similar hoax bomb threats going around the country just a few weeks ago. According to Coates, a document was sent out by the state letting law enforcement know about the hoax threats.

Coates said they are monitoring the threats and communicating with the FBI on the matter.

Sgt. Scott Arnold with West Valley City Police says his department received at least two reports from local businesses who received the threats.

He said investigators worked with Unified Fire bomb techs and determined the threats were false alarms.

In Park City, a similar threat was made to the offices of the Park Record newspaper.

As a precaution, students in the area were not allowed to take lunch away from their schools and several nearby businesses were evacuated.

Park City Police Captain, Phil Kirk, says those restrictions were lifted when it was determined the threats had no merit.

Another threat was made at Dixie State University. Chief of Police Blair Barfuss with DSU said they were the first ones in Washington County to receive the emailed bomb threat at 11:20 a.m. Thursday.

The threat was made against the testing center. The testing center in the north plaza was evacuated as a precaution, but reopened when a thorough search turned up no sign of a bomb, giving the all clear at 12:30 p.m. Barfuss also said the email requested $20,000 in bitcoin, similar to other threats.

Police in Price posted on its Facebook page that 50 such threats had been made across Utah with one of them in Carbon County.

Summit County Sheriff sent out a press release Thursday afternoon stating a threat had been received at a business in the Silver Creek Business Park. The sheriff’s office said the investigation is ongoing but they have not identified any devices or confirmed any threats at this time.

In Seattle, UW noted in a campus-wide alert that the FBI had “advised that the email is not a credible threat.”

The university concluded sweeps of possibly affected buildings.

The Thurston County Courthouse in Olympia, Washington and the Park Record newspaper in Park City, Utah also received similarly threatening emails. People have been allowed back inside buildings at those locations, according to tweets on their verified Twitter accounts.

In California, the Riverside Sheriff’s Office had “an influx of email threats” and is taking them seriously, although no threat has been substantiated.

The San Francisco Police Department responded to reports of bomb threats at locations throughout the city.

“We have received information that several other cities across the United States have received similar threats,” police said.

Pennsylvania State Police are “investigating some bomb threats in the eastern part of the state,” a spokesman for the department tells CNN.

“Penn State University Police, in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is investigating a message received by individuals in multiple locations on campus and across the state,” the university said in a statement. “Police say this does not appear to be a legitimate threat, however, an investigation is ongoing.”

University police later said the threat appears to be a hoax.

Email threats have also been received in Canada.

Vancouver Police Department Sgt. Jason Robillard tells CNN that businesses have received threats. He is not aware of any buildings that have evacuated.

The Chicago Police Department received 15 to 20 reports of emailed threats in the past few hours, according to Officer Jennifer Bryk.

Director of Communications Anthony Guglielmi tweeted, “#ChicagoPolice are working with federal partners on the investigation, and at this time there is no elevated threat level for the city of Chicago.”

Threats were also emailed to locations in New York City and Atlanta; the Charlotte News & Observer and the Raleigh News & Observer newspapers in North Carolina; and three sites in Miami.