Bay Area Jewish bomb threat cases remain unsolved despite FBI arrest of suspect
SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - The FBI arrested a man in St. Louis, who is suspected of calling in bomb threats to eight Jewish community centers and the Anti-Defamation League office in New York City.
The criminal complaint seems to point to a motive fueled more by a personal vendetta against a former girlfriend, than ideology.
The suspect, Juan Thompson, 31, appeared in federal court in St. Louis Friday. His supporters said he has no criminal record. Thompson answered questions politely and told the judge he has enough money to hire his own attorney.
Nationwide, there have been five waves of incidents totaling more than 110 threats to Jewish Community Centers, synagogues, Jewish schools and other sites this year, but Thompson is linked to only a small fraction of those cases.
The FBI raided a house in St. Louis connected to Thompson, taking out brown bags of evidence.
"He hasn't been here, a couple months now. Just his mother....It's crazy," said Tyrone Lampkin, Thompson's stepfather.
Some say what's crazy is the possible motive suggested in the FBI's criminal complaint. It charges Thompson with cyberstalking and says he had been harassing his ex-girlfriend from July through November, threatening to release nude photos, telling her employer she had a DUI, STD's, and was anti-Semitic.
The FBI complaint says Thompson began calling in bomb threats in January using his ex-girlfriend's name and his own name.
On social media, Thompson appears to have posted messages suggesting his ex-girlfriend was framing him.
Thompson was fired from the online publication The Intercept, after fabricating a story about the Charleston, South Carolina church shooter Dylann Roof.
Seth Brysk, the Anti-Defamation League's Central Pacific Director based in San Francisco, said that was when the ADL began tracking Thompson.
"Our Center on Extremism had actually known of this individual and had been tracking him because of other things he's done and said. He's made bizarre claims against President Trump, against President Obama," said Brysk.
What's also unsettling is that Thompson is accused in just a small fraction of the threats. The bomb threats phoned into the San Francisco Anti-Defamation League office and Jewish Community Centers in Marin and Palo Alto remain unsolved.
"There's still this concern that the perpetrator or perpetrators of other threats are still at large," Brysk said.
The most recent incident was a third Jewish cemetery vandalism discovered Thursday in Rochester, New York. About one dozen headstones were damaged.
"Just because there's been an arrest today around our bomb threat does not mean that the threats have disappeared or will stop," said Evan Bernstein, the New York Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League.
FBI Director James Comey met with Jewish community leaders Friday. Also, the Federal Communications Commission said it will grant emergency waivers to allow phone service providers to track the phone number of anyone who calls in a threat to a Jewish center, even if the number comes up as blocked.