JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Six juveniles described as “tech-savvy” have been identified by the FBI as persons of interest for their suspected involvement in threats to historically Black colleges and universities across the country, including Edward Waters University in Jacksonville, according to a Wednesday report from NBC News.
The FBI believes the threats, received on the first day of Black History Month, are racially motivated, NBC News reported.
Edward Waters University warned students via social media early Tuesday morning that it had received “an anonymous bomb and threat of violence to the EWU campus this morning.”
Zakari Loveless was up early for football practice when he learned the campus was on lockdown.
“It had hit my phone, and I’m like, oh my God we’re under a bomb threat? Because I was seeing on Instagram how all the other HBCUs were getting targeted, and the whole time I was like, I hope we aren’t one of the ones that’s next,” Loveless said.
EWU was one of at least 13 HBCUs that received bomb threats Tuesday. This came on the heels of at least a half-dozen historically Black universities in five states and the District of Columbia that received bomb threats Monday, with many of them locking down their campuses for a time.
A law enforcement official told NBC News that the persons of interest are from all around the country. The juveniles “sophisticated methods to try to disguise the source of the threats,” NBC News reported.
News4JAX contacted the FBI office in Jacksonville to learn more but a spokesperson was not able to confirm the report or the locations of the persons of interest.
“The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces are leading the investigation into the nationwide series of bomb threats to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and houses of worship,” the FBI said in a statement. “This investigation is of the highest priority for the Bureau and involves more than 20 FBI field offices across the country. These threats are being investigated as Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremism and hate crimes. We are working closely with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners, coordinating with the targeted institutions, and meeting with academia and faith leaders to share information.
“Although at this time no explosive devices have been found at any of the locations, the FBI takes all threats with the utmost seriousness and we are committed to thoroughly and aggressively investigating these threats.
“Due to the continuing investigation we are unable to provide more details at this time.
“The FBI will continue our work to make sure all races and religions feel safe in their communities, schools, and places of worship. We would like to remind members of the public that if they observe anything suspicious or have information about potential threats to report it to law enforcement immediately, call their local FBI field office, or submit a tip to tips.fbi.gov.”
News4JAX on Wednesday requested comment from EWU. We were told they were not doing any interviews and that they did not have any comment on the latest developments.