Where do school threats come from? Often, thousands of miles away

NOW: Where do school threats come from? Often, thousands of miles away

NILES, Mich. -- Parents are shaken and frustrated after four school threats in less than two weeks in and around Niles.

ABC57 spoke with the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of National Security for FBI Michigan, Josh Hauxhurst. He said the FBI likes to investigate every threat they become aware of, because they find a lot of the time, it's part of a bigger pattern of threats, often coming from sources abroad, and it’s the FBI's job to tie this all together.

“So, the first thing we want to do in any one of these cases, whether it’s a swatting incident or a bomb threat, we want to make sure it’s not a hoax," he said. "We don’t want to automatically assume these are all hoaxes.”

The FBI got involved investigating the threats, which started March 15 at Ballard Elementary School, followed by more threats made March 18, 27, and 28. So far, they all seem to be unfounded.

“Actually, we find very few instances [where] these threats are actually localized,” Hauxhurst said.

More often than not, he said, the threats are coming from miles away... thousands and thousands of miles away.

“Well, a lot of these, it’s worth noting, originate in other countries," he said. "We’ve had some of these that came from Norway, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Nigeria. So, these are coming from all over the world.”

At least the first two threats to Niles schools were determined to have come from Nigeria. The question, then, becomes motive.

“I think the primary motive is, a lot of times, to create chaos, whether it’s for social or political gain, or some kind of ideology, the intent is just to create chaos,” he said.

He says many times, grievances will start online, and result in a prank active shooter or bomb threat, also known as "swatting."

Calling in a false threat carries major consequences, according to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.

A false report is a 93-day misdemeanor, but if it results in injury, it becomes a felony with serious prison time. And school threats carry their own criminal charges; a bomb threat is a four-year felony, and a terroristic threat is a felony of up to 20 years.

“It’s incredibly frustrating, being that there’s so many resources that go into running these things down," Hauxhurst said. "Not to mention, the disruption and the chaos that it causes to the affected victims.”

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