Police have arrested a St. Louis man accused of making at least eight threats against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and other institutions across the country.
The suspect, Juan Thompson, has been charged by federal authorities for making the threats — some in his name and some in the name of an ex-girlfriend he’s accused of cyber stalking, according to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. attorney’s office in New York and unsealed Friday.
Thompson worked as a reporter for The Intercept before being fired for fabricating stories.
Authorities do not believe Thompson, 31, is responsible for the entire wave of bomb threats made against JCCs in the U.S. and Canada.
Federal prosecutors said it appears Thompson “has made at least eight JCC threats nationwide as part of his campaign of harassment against” the former girlfriend.
Thompson’s alleged threats included calls, emails and faxes to the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) New York City headquarters, the Jewish History Museum, a Jewish school in Farmington Hills, Mich., and JCCs in Manhattan and San Diego.
In the threat against the Michigan school on Feb. 1, Thompson claimed that he placed two bombs inside, according to the complaint. “He is eager for Jewish newtown,” he wrote in an email, an apparent reference to the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 people dead.
Prosecutors believe Thompson made some threats in his own name in order to make it appear as if he was being framed. Those threats were accompanied by similar ones made in his former girlfriend's name.
Twenty days later, Thompson allegedly emailed the ADL headquarters in his ex-girlfriend’s name, saying she “is behind the bomb threats against jews.”
The threats began soon after Thompson’s relationship ended last summer, according to prosecutors.
Thompson allegedly sent two faxes to the woman’s employer on Oct. 11 stating she was anti-Semitic, including screenshots of fabricated social media messages purported to be from her accounts containing anti-Semitic statements.
“.@FBI,@NYPDnews,@nyspolice informed us arrest made in #bombthreat vs ADL & several other #Jewish institutions. Thx to them for amazing work,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted Friday.
Two tweets cited in the criminal complaint match messages that appear on the account of the former Intercept reporter.
The outlet said in a statement Friday it was “horrified” to learn of Thompson’s arrest.
“These actions are heinous and should be fully investigation and prosecuted,” the statement reads. “We have no information about the charges against Thompson other than what was included in the criminal complaint.”
Intercept editor-in-chief Betsy Reed told BuzzFeed News her outlet has not had a relationship with Thompson since his January 2016 firing.
The arrest comes amid heightened fears about rising anti-Semitism sparked by nearly 100 threats made against Jewish institutions across 33 states since the beginning of the year. The threats have been accompanied by vandalism of Jewish cemeteries in at least three major U.S. metropolitan areas.
The fears have become so widespread that President Trump addressed the incidents on Tuesday during his address to a joint session of Congress.
“Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” he said.
But hours earlier, Trump reportedly suggested during a closed-door meeting that "sometimes it's the reverse" when it comes to the threats, which he said were sometimes carried out "to make people — or to make others — look bad."
That comment added fuel to criticism that his responses to the threats were lackluster, at best. The president waited until Feb. 21 to make his first direct comments on the incidents, when he said anti-Semitism was "horrible."
Days earlier, the president told a Jewish reporter to "sit down" at a news conference after he asked about Trump's plan to fight anti-Semitism.
One day after Trump's initial comments, Vice President Pence made a surprise visit to a cemetery that was vandalized in St. Louis after making a speech there.
“From the heart, there is no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism,” he said.