A wave of bomb threats emailed Thursday to hundreds of schools, businesses and government buildings across Hampton Roads and the U.S. triggered searches, evacuations and fear — but there were no signs of explosives, and authorities said the scare appeared to be a crude extortion attempt.
Law enforcement agencies across the country dismissed the threats, saying they were meant to cause disruption and compel recipients into sending money and were not considered credible.
Police in Hampton Roads said each location received the same email threat.
They were sent from a spoofed email address. The sender claimed to have had an associate plant a small bomb in the recipient’s building and that the only way to stop him from setting it off was by making an online payment of $20,000 in Bitcoin.
In Norfolk, police and fire rescue have responded to seven locations, and gave the all clear at around 3:30 p.m.
Virginia Beach Police also gave the “all clear” on the six locations officers investigated Thursday.
In Newport News, city spokeswoman Kim Lee said bomb threats were sent to 10 locations, “including government offices and private businesses throughout the city.”
“Police and fire crews responded and determined that all of the threats were unfounded,” Lee said. “We are not releasing the specific locations except to acknowledge what has already been reported which is that City Hall was one of the buildings and it was evacuated for a short period of time this afternoon. We are working with state and federal officials to further investigate the threats.”
Authorities in Hampton said dispatchers were notified of two bomb threats received via email at local businesses, Catalina Cylinders in the 2400 block of Aluminum Avenue and Rock Solid Janitorial Inc., in the 2700 block of West Mercury Boulevard at 2:24 p.m.
A “protective sweep” was done at both locations and police did not find anything. Hampton Police said the matter remains under investigation.
York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Shelley Ward said there was one bomb threat at 2:48 p.m. at the Yorktown Veterinary Hospital. The hospital received an email demanding money. The sheriff’s office sent deputies to the scene.
Ward said it’s no longer considered an active scene.
There were no reported threats in Williamsburg.
In James City County, fire Battalion Chief Al Catlett said “Our fire marshals are responding to a threat at a business, consistent with what they’ve heard at the Hampton Roads. No specific action right now other than an investigation.”
The threats appear not to be isolated in Hampton Roads, according to a statement from the FBI: “We are aware of the recent bomb threats made in cities around the country, including in Hampton Roads, and we remain in touch with our law enforcement partners to provide assistance.”
In Norfolk the following locations reported bomb threats:
- Keim Center, 2121 Colonial Avenue – 1:35 p.m.
- World Trade Center, 101 W. Main Street – 1:43 p.m.
- SL Nusbaum, 440 Monticello – 1:51 p.m.
- Chrysler Museum, 245 W. Only Road – 2:18 p.m.
- Dominion Tower, 999 Waterside Drive – 2:36 p.m.
- 2000 block of Kenlake Pl (home based business) 2:33 p.m.
- Shephards Way, 805 Park Avenue – 2:49 p.m.
In Virginia Beach the following locations reported bomb threats:
- Hebrew Academy, 5000 Corporate Woods Drive – 1:09 p.m.
- Atlantic Bay Mortgage, 596 Lynnhaven Parkway – 1:46 p.m.
- Hilton Oceanfront, 3001 Atlantic Avenue – 2:15 p.m.
- Courthouse Academy, 3217 Monet Drive – 2:56 p.m.
- Birdneck Village Apartments, 600 Piney Branch Drive – 3:22 p.m.
- Colonial AC & Heating, 5753 Arrowhead Drive – 3:24 p.m.
Schools, businesses and other locations across the U.S. also received bomb threats — across the country, some schools were closed early and others were evacuated because of the threats.
Some of the emails had the subject line: “Think Twice.”
The FBI said it is assisting law enforcement agencies that are dealing with the threats.
Correction: A previous version of this story said the bomb threat was at York Animal Hospital, according to sheriff’s office spokeswoman Shelley Ward. The threat was at Yorktown Veterinary Hospital.