Schools reopen across Los Angeles under tight security

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

L.A. defends response to threat that New York dismissed as a hoax.

So said security experts interviewed by NBC News just hours after the feds concluded the threat that shuttered the nation’s second largest school system on Tuesday — but which New York City officials ignored — was bogus. “Each threat must be evaluated individually and this means that the context and nuance of how the threats were perceived in New York and Los Angeles came into play,” Chris Dorn of Safe Havens International, a non-profit that specializes in helping school systems with security issues, said in an email.Shortly after 10 Monday night — about 1 a.m. on the East Coast — public school officials in Los Angeles and New York received nearly identical emails promising imminent attacks on campuses involving explosives and gunmen. Los Angeles is only about an hour’s drive from San Bernardino, where earlier this month a married couple who’d become radicalized murdered 14 people and wounded 21 more. “It is not uncommon (nor is it a bad idea) for schools in an area near a recent attack to be extra cautious,” Dorn wrote. “We saw schools in Connecticut that would go on a lockdown for the slightest possibility of danger because of their proximity to Sandy Hook and the heightened sense of awareness.

Los Angeles school board President Steve Zimmer opened his email Monday night, saw the threat and immediately notified the district’s police chief, who in turn contacted the LAPD. He was told that investigators had traced the message to an Internet server in Germany, but was cautioned that it might have been rerouted from somewhere else.

After they detonated, people “with ISIS connections” would attack with AK-47 rifles and other guns, said Beck, who was paraphrasing the email. “It was also in very good English — which is not a good sign,” he said. “Most of the hoaxes that I see … have syntax errors, a lot of incomplete sentences, non-sequiturs. Cortines, who announced his retirement months ago, had already begun to transition out of the job and his second in command, along with the school police chief and other top district officials, worked throughout the night without alerting him. “We gave them our best counsel, we gave them the best investigative information we had,” he said, declining to say what recommendations police gave school officials about closing campuses. The threat sent to New York claimed that schools would be attacked with a combination of pressure cooker bombs, nerve gas agents and machine guns, according to a law enforcement source who read the email but was not authorized to release details. Stephen Davis, deputy commissioner of the New York Police Department, said investigators were struck by small but significant errors in the email’s wording. The message, for example, claimed that the attacks would be carried out in the name of Allah, but the sender used a lower case “a.” The email also included a large amount of information about the threatened attacks, which runs counter to common practices of terrorists, Davis said. “It didn’t add up,” Davis said.

That made it easier for them to conclude the emails were fakes, because the wording was nearly identical and the sender was claiming to be in both cities at the same time. The chief said he understood how the recent attacks in San Bernardino could have influenced the school district’s decision. “The tension in L.A. is palpable right now,” he said. “People are very concerned.”

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