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Nationwide bomb threat hoax hits St. Pete, Tampa and Pinellas Park

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Published Dec. 13, 2018

Law enforcement agencies throughout the Tampa Bay area and across the nation spent Thursday responding to multiple bomb threats that were called in or emailed to businesses, government buildings and even schools.

• Tampa police say officers were investigating eight bomb threats delivered by email to several businesses and schools within the city. That includes Channelside Academy, a charter middle school in downtown Tampa, two law firms, an industrial equipment business, a construction and architectural firm, and a credit counseling service. In each case, no devices have been found, police said.

The emailed messages were similar to others reported across the nation, said Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty.

• St. Petersburg police said they investigated four such threats within the city, including messages sent to a realty company and another private business, said St. Petersburg police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez.

The anonymous messages contained a ransom note demanding a large bitcoin payment otherwise those buildings would be destroyed, Fernandez said. No devices have been found at any of the four locations, she said.

• The Pinellas Park Police Department said officers are looking into three bomb threats made to businesses in the city. No devices have been found, investigators said.

Those threats appear to be similar to the ones being made nationwide. The New York Police Department's Counterterrorism Bureau categorized Thursday's mass threats as a "nationwide hoax," the Associated Press reported.

The emails and phone calls began trickling in to fire departments and other government agencies at about noon, forcing temporary evacuations, school lock downs and even the closing of some buildings.

Some of the emails had the subject line: "Think Twice." They targeted a wide variety of institutions, including banks, law firms, newspapers, medical facilities, schools and universities. Authorities evacuated a courthouse in Atlanta because of the threats, and students at Penn State University received a campus-wide safety alert.

The Seminole County School District said Thursday that a high school and elementary school there received a threatening message and were temporarily placed under a "partial lockdown." Investigators with the Sarasota Police Department also confirmed that multiple businesses within the city received emailed threats. No devices have been found by either agency.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, though authorities stopped short of saying that all the threats were connected.

"As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities that could represent a threat to public safety," Hegarty said.

Contact Anastasia Dawson at adawson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

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