Police said a series of bogus threats around Calhoun County on Thursday led to the evacuation of at least one credit union branch and spurred searches that found no real danger.
The hoax appears to have been part of a nationwide wave of similar threats received by email at healthcare facilities, banks, schools and other institutions. Local news websites across the country were filled Thursday with stories about evacuations and fruitless searches for explosives that authorities said turned out not to exist. Law enforcement and counterterrorism agencies nationwide posted statements to social media, as well.
We are currently monitoring multiple bomb threats that have been sent electronically to various locations throughout the city.— NYPDCounterterrorism (@NYPDCT) December 13, 2018
These threats are also being reported to other locations nationwide & are NOT considered credible at this time. pic.twitter.com/GowGG4oZ9l
MSP Fusion Center tracking multiple bomb threats emailed to numerous businesses in the state. MSP Bomb Squad notified and local departments are responding in their communities. Similar threats have been received in other states. We will share more info when available.— Mass State Police (@MassStatePolice) December 13, 2018
State officials said they’d heard reports of threats in cities around Alabama.
“We are monitoring a number of bomb-threat emails targeting state/local agencies,” Alabama Law Enforcement Agency spokeswoman Robyn Bryan wrote in an email to The Star. “We cannot assess validity but will continue to work with our partners and monitor the situation.”
In Anniston, the Golden Springs branch of Fort McClellan Credit Union was evacuated Thursday afternoon after that branch, plus the ones in downtown Anniston and in Ohatchee, received emailed threats around noon, according to Anniston police Capt. Nick Bowles. The emails said bombs would explode if first responders were called to the scene.
“Of course we’re going to respond to all threats,” Bowles said. “We searched the buildings and had the explosive dog run through the building. Nothing was found.”
Police were notified of the threats at 12:41 p.m., Bowles said.
Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge on Twitter wrote that one business in his city had received an emailed threat that was unfounded; in a brief phone interview, Partridge said it was a retail business but declined to say more. On Twitter, Partridge wrote that investigators were working to learn more.
Gadsden State Community College closed all six of its campuses at around 1:45 p.m. after receiving emails about the Ayers Campus in Anniston and Joe Ford Center in Etowah County. The college later said it would resume normal operations Friday.
On Thursday, Fort McClellan Credit Union workers in Golden Springs stood outside on the property around 1:30 p.m. as police worked with dogs to search the building's exterior and grounds.
A woman who said she was an employee of the branch but who declined to give her name said the situation was “safe,” but declined to say more. She then asked a reporter to leave the property.
Anniston police just before 2 p.m. posted messages to social media that said “multiple bomb threats all over town” had been received. “Be aware of your surroundings but please stay calm. We have found nothing to validate any of these threats.”
Sgt. Kyle Price, an Anniston police investigator, said he knew of at least six emailed threats, said more were likely to come through. The emails were generic, he said, and mentioned no specific businesses by name. Price said the emails asked for $20,000 in Bitcoin to be paid by the end of the business day, or bombs would detonate.
The emails were sent to employees like marketing directors and other publicly available addresses. Price said that there are likely to be more recipients of threats who simply haven’t checked their email yet.
“It will not be surprising to encounter more of these in the days to come when those email accounts are checked,” he said.