Los Angeles shut more than 1,000 public schools over a threatened attack with bombs and assault rifles, sending hundreds of thousands of students home as city leaders were criticized for overreacting to what authorities later said was apparently a hoax.
The emailed threat, which authorities said was routed through Germany but likely originated locally, was made nearly two weeks after a married couple inspired by Islamic State killed 14 people and wounded 22 others at a county office building 60 miles (100 km) away in San Bernardino.
“Based on past circumstance, I could not take the chance,” Los Angeles School Superintendent Ramon Cortines told a news conference early in the day.
But federal officials, who asked not to be identified, echoed an assessment by New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton that the decision in Los Angeles was an “overreaction.” New York had received an almost identical threat that was quickly deemed not credible.
After more than 1,500 school district sites had been inspected by nightfall, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti conceded that the message appeared to have been a hoax.
“We can now announce the FBI has determined that this is not a credible threat,” Garcetti said, adding that the incident required further investigation but “what we do know is, it will be safe for our children return to school tomorrow.
Despite that determination, Garcetti and Police Chief Charlie Beck stood by the decision to close the schools. They said New York officials had more time to assess the threat, which was sent to both districts from the same IP address.