ELYRIA – Police have identified a 16-year-old Florida boy as the person responsible for a series of threats targeting Elyria High School earlier this year.
Elyria Police Capt. Chris Costantino said the teen, who has not been formally charged, admitted to being the leader of an online hacking group when he was questioned by police after officers from Elyria and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office searched his Keystone Heights, Fla., home on July 12.
“He was very arrogant because he thought he wasn’t going to get caught,” Costantino said. “…He was quite surprised when police were at his door.”
The first threat was called into the Lorain County Emergency Management Agency on May 22 with the caller claiming an armed student was barricaded in a restroom at the high school with bombs made of propane tanks and an intention to cause mass casualties. The school was locked down and evacuated, but police didn’t locate any armed students or bombs during a sweep of the building.
A 15-year-year-old sophomore, who was linked to the hacking group, was taken into custody and questioned before police determined he wasn’t responsible for the call.
A second threat came into the Elyria Police Department on May 29 with the caller claiming there was a bomb inside a trash container outside the high school. A search turned up no bombs.
The third call was made to Elyria police just before the start of the high school’s graduation on May 31. The caller claimed that there was a bomb under the bleachers. Police and school officials knew that was a lie because they had swept Ely Stadium and locked down the facility a day before the graduation was set to take place.
Police have said the 15-year-old from Elyria was the victim of both doxing, in which his personal information was released to hackers, and swatting, in which a false alarm is called into authorities to trigger a large-scale law enforcement response.
Investigators determined the 15-year-old wasn’t responsible for the calls, but he may have had a falling out with the hacking group, triggering their attempts to blame him for the threats to the high school.
The Elyria teen also fell under scrutiny for his own actions following the second threat when he posted an image to the social media app Snapchat of an electrical device. The image was captioned with “Say I won’t bring this (expletive) to school.”
The Elyria teen also posted an image of an airplane that was accompanied with the words “ALLAHU ALBAR,” police have said. The teen, who called the timing of his Snapchat posts a coincidence, briefly was charged with making terroristic threats and inducing panic, but those charges were quickly dropped.
Kenneth Lieux, the attorney representing the Elyria teen, has described his client as a victim of the hacking group.
Costantino said police in Florida are looking at the Florida teenager’s computers and hard drives to see if they can link the 16-year-old to any other crimes. He also said the information found during those electronic searches could lead to other suspects.
Costantino said police are hoping that Florida prosecutors will charge the 16-year-old with felony charges in the case. He also said that the lengths Elyria police went to in their efforts to track down the suspect will serve as a deterrent to those who might commit similar crimes in the future.
“These three incidents caused a great deal of unnecessary alarm and panic throughout the city,” Costantino wrote in a news release. “They also created a strain on first responders and pulled vital resources from other areas of responsibility.”
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