WASHINGTON — Metropolitan Police Department investigators say two teenagers have been arrested and charged with terroristic threats in connection to bomb threats at D.C. schools on Wednesday.
MPD says they are continuing to investigate the threats with their federal partners, including the Department of Homeland Security.
D.C. police tweeted that both of the teens arrested are 16-year-old boys.
One of the 16-year-olds is from Southeast D.C. and faces charges connected to "multiple bomb threats" that occurred Wednesday. The other 16-year-old is from Northwest D.C. and police say he made a bomb threat Wednesday directed at Kipp DC College Preparatory.
Officials briefed Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas Wednesday afternoon, as he reviewed preparations for the Super Bowl in Los Angeles. The officials noted DHS is now monitoring for similar threats online, adding to resources deployed by the D.C. police, FBI, and ATF.
“DHS is coordinating with our federal, state, local, and community partners and will continue to monitor the situation,” a spokesperson for the secretary said.
The announcement capped a second harried day in the District for thousands of students and teachers who quickly evacuated their buildings.
After a phone threat Tuesday forced U.S. Secret Service to lead Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff out of Dunbar High School, Wednesday brought half a dozen threats to other D.C. schools between noon and 1 p.m.
Schools threatened include:
- Dunbar High School
- Friendship Public Charter School in Northeast
- Theodore Roosevelt in Petworth
- Ron Brown in Deanwood
- KIPP DC College Preparatory near Gallaudet University
- McKinley Technology High School in Eckington
- Seed School of Washington in Fort Dupont
- IDEA Public Charter School in Deanwood
Police found no hazardous materials in any of the schools, and students were allowed to reenter some of the buildings by 3 p.m.
“In the past 24 hours, DC Public Schools has received bomb threats at three of our high schools,” D.C. schools chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee tweeted before staff and police reported five more threats.
“These are troublesome incidents that we take very seriously. All students & staff were safely evacuated in accordance with DCPS protocols, and MPD responded swiftly to the schools.”
Two federal officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing investigations said it was likely Tuesday’s call to Dunbar was made by a “punk kid” who had no larger motivation.
It is unclear if Wednesday’s threats are linked. Law enforcement hesitated to immediately call the incidents “copycat threats,” until more information is known.
The FBI said encrypted communications have created a significant challenge for investigators to find and arrest those responsible for threats made towards HBCUs.
"Our phone systems, internet systems, the ability to spoof phone numbers, is very easy now," said Tom O'Connor, a veteran of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and principal consultant at FEDSquaredConsulting.
"It can now take longer than it did five years ago to track someone who calls in a bomb threat, because of encryption and going dark."
Even if an inexperienced actor called in a threat, without encrypted communications or a concealed location, O'Connor cautioned against members of the public expecting authorities to make an arrest within a day.
"We don't want law enforcement to go out and lock up the first person a phone number comes back to, because it may not belong to the suspect," he said. "You have to go out and investigate, to determine if the person registered to the number was actually using it at the time."
The husband of Vice President Kamala Harris was at Dunbar High School Tuesday for an event in commemoration of Black History Month. He had only been there five minutes when his Secret Service team told him "we have to go" due to an apparent bomb threat.
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