Bomb Threats Against Black Colleges Trace Back to Single Juvenile Suspect

A photo of the Spelman College campus

A photo of the Spelman College campus

WASHINGTON — The FBI has officially announced that a lone underage youth is the prime suspect in most of the racially motivated bomb threats against dozens of historically black colleges and universities earlier this year that terrorized students.

The FBI didn’t release any further details in a statement Monday — just that the individual is under 18 — but said the agency is working with prosecutors to “hold the minor accountable.”

“Given federal restrictions on charging juvenile offenders with federal crimes, the Justice Department has been working with prosecutors to hold them accountable for charges unrelated to the specific threats facing HBCUs,” the FBI said. “This individual is restricted and monitored for their online activities.”

According to the FBI, this youth made bomb threats against these HBCUs between January 4th and February 1st. The threats were denounced by HBCU leaders and civil rights activists at the time.

In February, just before the Southern Poverty Law Center held a virtual panel on the bomb threats against dozens of historically black colleges, another bomb threat was reported – this one against Spelman College in Georgia.

“This was a racist attack not only aimed at disrupting the start of Black History Month, but the perpetrators wanted to send a message, we believe, that even learning while Black is not safe from hate,” said Lecia Brooks , the chief of human resources and culture for the SPLC, at the panel discussion.

“You have clearly underestimated the strength of our valued learning centers, whose existence is based on resilience.”

In March, an FBI official told a panel of House lawmakers that the agency believed at the time that a juvenile was behind more than 30 threats against HBCUs.

Ryan Young, the FBI’s executive assistant director of the Intelligence Branch, said at the hearing that the agency is treating these bomb threats as domestic terrorism and that they are the agency’s top priority.

“It’s designed to harm the African American population,” Young told the lawmaker, who called the House Oversight Committee hearing to question federal law enforcement officials about why those people who made bomb threats against HBCUs hadn’t been caught yet.

The House and Senate passed a bipartisan resolution condemning the bombing threats against HBCUs, and there have been several congressional hearings on the threats against minority institutions.

The FBI said in Monday’s statement that it is still investigating two groups of unrelated threats that appear to have originated abroad. A sentence was primarily aimed at 19 HBCU institutions from February 8 to March 2. A second series of threats began June 7, and since then, more than 250 colleges — including seven HBCUs — and more than 100 high schools and two junior high schools have received either bomb threats or active shooter threats, or both.

The FBI said more than 50 HBCUs, houses of worship and other religious and academic institutions across the country have received racially-motivated threats of violence this year alone.

The agency said in its statement: “Hateful and racist threats of violence cause real suffering to victims. These threats disrupt the learning environment and education of college students and other citizens. The FBI will not tolerate anyone who attempts to incite fear in any community, especially one with a history of violence and threats of violence. The FBI, with the help of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, will continue to vigorously pursue anyone responsible for these ongoing threats.”

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