US law enforcement agencies have arrested a man suspected of being behind at least eight bomb threats against Jewish organizations in recent weeks, Federal authorities said Friday.
Authorities named the suspect as Juan Thompson, 31, and said that the threats were made as a campaign to harass a former girlfriend, using her name to make some of the threats.
“Today, we have charged Juan Thompson with allegedly stalking a former romantic interest by, among other things, making bomb threats in her name to Jewish Community Centers and to the Anti-Defamation League,” New York-based US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
“Threats of violence targeting people and places based on religion or race –- whatever the motivation –- are unacceptable, un-American and criminal.”
Thompson was arrested in St. Louis, Missouri and was expected to appear in a Missouri court later Friday on one count of cyberstalking.
The FBI, NYPD and New York state police “informed us arrest made in bombthreat vs ADL & several other Jewish institutions,” ADL director Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted. “Thx to them for amazing work.”
The ADL was one of the institutions target by Thompson.
Since January there have been five waves of bomb threats to Jewish community centers and other institutions nationwide, totaling over 100 incidents. Other anti-Semitic attacks have also sparked worry in Jewish communities.
On Thursday, a cemetery in Rochester, NY was vandalized, and in the previous week hundreds of Jewish tombstones in Pennsylvania and Missouri were toppled.
University City, Missouri, police Lt. Fredrick Lemons told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that detectives will question Thompson about the 154 headstones toppled last month at a Jewish cemetery in the St. Louis suburb. He declined to say whether Thompson was considered a suspect.
Police told CNN that no one had been arrested for the series of robocalls to dozens of other JCCs and the investigation was ongoing.
NY state police spox: "no one has been arrested for making the nationwide robocall JCC threats…That's still an active FBI investigation"
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 3, 2017
There have been multiple other anti-Semitic incidents in the months since the US presidential election, including swastikas and racial slurs being drawn on schools and other buildings.
According to court documents seen by The Times of Israel, Thompson sent a series of emails and calls to a number of organizations accusing his ex-girlfriend of targeting Jewish institutions, spreading sexually transmitted diseases and carrying out hacking attacks.
“As set forth below it appears Juan Thompson, the defendant, has made at least eight JCC threats nationwide as part of harassment against the victim,” said a statement to the court by an FBI agent who had been investigating him
Some were made in the victim’s name, while others were made in his own name. Thompson told the FBI the victim was trying to get him arrested.
He also tweeted that his ex-girlfriend was trying to frame him and that she had threatened to kill US President Donald Trump.
— Juan M. Thompson (@JuanMThompson) February 24, 2017
On February 21, he sent an email to the ADL naming the victim as the person making the bomb threats. Then, on February 22, he made a phone call to the ADL saying there was C-4 explosives in the ADL’s New York office that would be “detonated within one hour.”
Searches of the building revealed nothing.
The agent said Thompson was also responsible for threats to Jewish centers in Dallas and San Diego, the Jewish History Museum and a Jewish school in Manhattan.
In one call to a Jewish school in Michigan that was made in Thompson’s name, the caller said he was “eager for a Jewish Newtown” referencing the massacre in Newton, Connecticut in which 20 children were murdered.
The testimony said threatening calls were also made to Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Thompson, a former journalist, was fired from the online publication The Intercept last year after being accused of fabricating several quotes and creating fake email accounts to impersonate people, including the Intercept’s editor-in-chief. One of the falsified stories involved Dylann Roof, the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooter.
The Intercept wrote Friday: “We were horrified to learn this morning that Juan Thompson, a former employee of The Intercept, has been arrested in connection with bomb threats against the ADL and multiple Jewish Community Centers in addition to cyberstalking. These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted.”
The ADL said Friday that Thompson had been on its radar since he fabricated the story about Roof. According to ADL research, Thompson claimed that he wanted to dismantle the system of “racial supremacy and greedy capitalism that is stacked against us.” He said he was going to run for mayor of St. Louis last year to “fight back against Trumpian fascism and socio-economic terrorism.”
He created a GoFundMe page to raise $5,000 for his election bid. He got $25, the ADL said.