Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Public Safety

Nationwide Wave Of Email Bomb Threats Puts Law Enforcement On Alert

The sign in front of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Administration Center, San Diego, August 13, 2018.
Claire Trageser
The sign in front of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Administration Center, San Diego, August 13, 2018.

Law enforcement authorities across the San Diego area Thursday investigated dozens of bogus emailed bomb threats received as part of a wave of similar menacing messages targeting businesses, schools and other locations across the nation in a bid to generate ransom payments.

At least 50 anonymous computer-delivered threats were made locally, in some cases prompting evacuations while investigators worked to determine if the online communications represented any real danger.

There were no immediate indications that any of the threats were credible, officials said. It was unknown who was behind the mass-scale extortion attempts.


A representative of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said the agency had gotten word of at least 14 local instances of the threats. The malicious messages mostly targeted businesses, at least two of which were evacuated as a precaution.

In the city of San Diego, police had received 36 reports of the threats as of about 3 p.m., according to the agency's public-information unit.

"The San Diego Police Department is working with affected law enforcement agencies to identify the (perpetrators) responsible for these false threats," SDPD officials said in a prepared statement. "The (department) takes these threats seriously until proven otherwise, as the safety of the people of San Diego is our top priority."

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department, for its part, was "responding to each reported threat as though it is valid," said Lt. Karen Stubkjaer of the regional agency's public-affairs department.

"At this point, these are threats (only), and there are no reports of explosives being detonated related to these (crimes)," Stubkjaer said late Thursday afternoon. "We appreciate (citizen) cooperation and encourage the public to take such threats seriously and ... report them immediately to local law enforcement."


Other San Diego-area agencies, including the police departments in Escondido and Oceanside, were investigating the same type of threats — at least some of which demanded a ransom of $20,000, paid in Bitcoin.

In the latter city, computers in a private home and at Tri-City Medical Center received the threatening emails, Oceanside police Lt. Kedrick Sadler said.

In the Riverside area, a business in Palm Desert was evacuated due to the threat. The sheriff's department in that county issued a statement saying it "takes these threats very seriously and is conducting an investigation into each threat."

That statement echoed one issued by the New York Police Department's Counterterrorism Bureau, which stated, "We are currently monitoring multiple bomb threats that have been sent electronically to various locations throughout the city. These threats are also being reported to other locations nationwide and are not considered credible at this time."

One person who received the emailed threat at an unidentified location posted a copy on Twitter. The message states there was an explosive device in the subject company's building, and it demanded the same cryptocurrency ransom mentioned in the other instances of the threat, to be paid by day's end.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.