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FBI, police working together on rash of threats

Posted at 2:03 PM, Sep 12, 2016

CINCINNATI -- Law enforcement officials from two counties are working together and with the FBI to figure out who's responsible for several threats against schools, Cincinnati's streetcar and the zoo over the past week.

The threats span from Mason to downtown Cincinnati; the most recent came Monday morning and involved Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati's Evanston neighborhood.

Walnut Hills principal Jeff Brokamp said no one called or contacted the school directly; instead, someone told school officials about a threat on Twitter, and the timeframe had already passed. Walnut Hills went on lockdown for about 45 minutes as police K-9s checked and found nothing.

“You start with it’s real, because if you think it's real and it's not, there's no harm. But if you say it's not real, there could be dire consequences,” former University of Cincinnati police chief and public safety expert Gene Ferrara said.

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Also Monday, a Lakota West High School student left a bomb threat in a school restroom, the Journal-News reported. That student, a male juvenile, faces discipline, including immediate suspension and possible expulsion, as well as possible criminal charges. Like Walnut Hills, Lakota West was not evacuated, school spokeswoman Lauren Boettcher said.

"As you know, we take any threat to student safety very seriously," Lakota West Principal Elgin Card wrote in an email to parents. "Please use this as an opportunity to remind your students of the personal and sometimes legal consequences they face when using poor judgment. It's also a good time to reiterate students' responsibility to share information related to the safety of our school community with administration immediately. Safety is always our top priority."

Two other threats in the past week also involved high schools: A threat against Mason High School canceled its Friday night football game against Moeller; and one against Colerain High School came in the final three minutes of its game against La Salle. Colerain police, Hamilton County Sheriff's deputies and school officials responded quickly and put an evacuation and protection plan into effect, Colerain Public Information Officer Jim Love told WCPO.

 

The day before, a threat forced people to evacuate the Cincinnati Zoo; and Saturday night, a threat temporarily halted service on Cincinnati's new streetcar system on its second day of service.

Clifford Adams, parent of a Walnut Hills student, has had one too many personal encounters with the recent threats.

"A lot of tension for me," Adams said. "I talked to you earlier -- I had the situation downtown with the streetcar, I was playing the piano at Jeff Ruby’s and looked out, and there were dogs sniffing the streetcar, and it's a lot of added tension that just keeps coming back, and it’s not a good feeling.”

 

Mason High rescheduled its game for Sunday, and there were five officers and a K-9 unit at the stadium. Mason police said it's too early to tell what the total costs are, and if they find the culprit, they'll seek restitution.

Todd Lindgren, FBI spokesman, said an active investigation is underway, working with local law enforcement agencies.

"It's pretty near impossible not to leave a footprint, even if you delete things or whatever, but it is very possible to make it impossible to track back,” Ferrara said.