SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The San Francisco Police Department as well as police in San Jose and Oakland on Thursday were investigating what appears to be a series of emailed bomb threats demanding bitcoin payment being received at locations across the country.
By early Thursday afternoon, authorities were reporting that the bomb threats appear to be a hoax.
The first confirmed threat in San Francisco led to the evacuation of Jewish Community Center in San Francisco late Thursday morning. The threat was directed at the nearby San Francisco Fire Credit Union on California Street.
The credit union is located at 3201 California, directly across the street from the JCCSF.
The JCCSF posted the following message on the community center website shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday:
“Due to a bomb threat at the SF Fire Credit Union across the street, SFPD has requested that JCCSF evacuate 3200 California Street immediately. As of 11:03 am, the JCCSF has evacuated to our emergency location at the public library on Sacramento Street. Check back here for updates. We are closed until further notice. Thank you. This is not a threat directed towards the JCCSF.”
Shortly before 1 p.m., the facility reopened, though the Diller preschool remained closed for the day and afterschool programs were cancelled. The JCCSF was evacuated for about two hours. People in the center self-evacuated so quickly that some had to jump out of the swimming pool and spend the better part of two hours waiting nearby in bathrobes.
It’s a facility that has an established game plan for such incidents. “Because it’s a Jewish organization we’ve had to put a lot of thought into security.”
During an afternoon press conference, San Francisco police said the department began receiving reports of bomb threats at around 10 a.m.
“We’re not going into any specifics about the e-mails, that’s to protect the investigation. The San Francisco Police Department’s special investigations division is charged with investigating bomb threats and they will be taking over these cases ,” said SFPD Sgt. Michael Andraychak.
The Jewish Community Center self-evacuated so quickly that some had to jump out of the swimming pool at the centers gym. Those folks spent the better part of two hours waiting nearby in bathrobes.
The facility very much has a game plan for events like Thursday’s scare.
“Because it’s a Jewish organization, we’ve had to put a lot of thought into security,” said evacuated JCC member Jill Kneeter.
The threats appeared to be part of a coordinated series of emailed threats being received across the country at schools, businesses and other institutions, according to law enforcement.
Threats were also called into the Marines Memorial Club and Hotel building on Sutter Street and upwards of 20 other locations, mostly concentrated downtown in the Financial District and in Fisherman’s Wharf.
The San Francisco FBI office released the following statement:
“We are aware of the recent bomb threats made in cities around the country, and we remain in touch with our law enforcement partners 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 police departments of San Jose, Santa Rosa, Palo Alto and Oakland have also reportedly received a number of bomb threats that they are also investigating.
“San Jose Police has also received several bomb threats similar to what other cities are experiencing,” the department’s media relations officer said in an email. The department later confirmed that about a dozen locations were targeted, though San Jose police did not specify where the threats were received.
Additional threats were reported in New York City. The NYPD posted that an email was being circulated that included a bomb threat and demand for bitcoin payment. The email was sent to multiple locations, but no devices have been found.
Police in New York also said the threats appear to be intended “to cause disruption and/or obtain money” but were likely not credible.
Some of the emails had the subject line: “Think Twice.”
There were reports that the threats being sent via email are automated spam. A number of business and financial institutions were reportedly being targeted in Chicago, Orlando and the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Now law enforcement officials both at the local and national level are faced with the task of figuring out who caused all of this trouble.
“We’re not going into any specifics about the emails. That’s to protect the investigation,” said Andraychak. “The San Francisco Police Department’s special investigations division is charged with investigating bomb threats and they will be taking over these cases.”