DEVELOPING: Officials in Los Angeles defended the decision to close all public schools Tuesday after receiving a bomb threat, despite growing evidence suggesting it was a hoax.
The threat, which school officials had initially called “credible,” was emailed to members of the school board, LA Police Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference. He added that the “very specific” message mentioned explosive devices and an attack with assault rifles. New York City officials said they received a similar threat, but concluded it was not credible.
NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said the person who wrote the note claimed to be a jihadist, but made errors that made it clear the person was a prankster. FBI sources tell Fox News they and the LAPD also deemed Monday’s emailed threat “non-credible.”
“I made the decision to close the schools,” LA Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines confirmed Tuesday, citing the need to ensure students’ safety.
A government official told Fox News the email described a bomb in a backpack and other packages in the schools. Beck said it was apparently routed through Germany, but may have originated somewhere closer to Los Angeles.
Cortines said every school in the 640,000-student district would be searched. The district, the nation’s second-largest, includes more than 900 schools and 187 public charter schools. It covers Los Angeles as well as all or parts of 31 smaller municipalities and employs nearly 60,000 people.
“I, as superintendent, am not going to take a chance with the students.”
– Superintendent Ramon Cortines
“I think it is important that I take this precaution based upon what has happened recently and what has happened in the past,” Cortines said.
The Department of Homeland Security was monitoring the situation, Fox News has learned.
Many parents received robocalls. A voice message from the district said: “As a result of a threat received the superintendent has directed all schools to be closed today.” Some parents also got separate calls from the schools themselves.
Cortines stressed that the threat was broad, and had to be taken seriously.
“It was not to one school, two schools or three schools, but to many schools,” Cortines said. “It was ‘to students at school.'”
The announcement comes less than two weeks after a terror attack in San Bernardino, some 50 miles to the east, left 14 dead and 22 wounded. On Monday afternoon, San Bernardino Valley College announced that classes Tuesday would be canceled, citing a bomb threat.
Cortines alluded to both the San Bernardino attack as well as “international” events. “I, as superintendent, am not going take a chance with the students,” he said.
“We need families and neighbors to work together with our schools and with our employees to make sure our schools are safe throughout today,” school board president Steve Zimmer said.