JCC Bomb Scares Tied to Nationwide Threats

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The Buffalo News (New York)


A bomb threat late Monday morning that forced the local Jewish Community Center to evacuate both of its buildings, on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo and North Forest Road in Getzville, was part of a nationwide effort that saw at least 10 such centers targeted with similar threats, according to local and national officials.

Similar threats were reported Monday - on Presidents Day - in Chicago; Cleveland; Houston; Tampa, Fla.; Nashville, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; Albuquerque, N.M.; St. Paul, Minn.; and Milwaukee and Whitefish Bay, Wis., according to media reports and local Jewish Community Center officials.

"The FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division are investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country," the FBI said Monday.

Both local community centers were evacuated immediately following the threat phoned in to the Getzville facility. Law enforcement officials searched both buildings, nothing was found, and both centers reopened within 2½ hours.

The bomb threat was made at about 11:15 a.m., according to Amherst Assistant Police Chief Charles C. Cohen. Everyone in the building was evacuated to a nearby location, and the all-clear alert was sounded around 12:45 p.m.

"The NFTA dog helped us with a sweep," Cohen said, referring to a K-9 from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority police. "Areas where we couldn't get a dog in were visually checked by officers and staff."

In Buffalo, evacuees were taken to a nearby Delaware Avenue building. After Buffalo police investigated, the facility reopened by 1:30 p.m., according to witnesses on the scene.

"They accomplished what they wanted," local JCC Executive Director Richard A. Zakalik said of those coordinating the threats. "The whole point was to scare and disrupt. Nevertheless, we take it very seriously, and we follow the procedures and protocols that are in place."

Zakalik thanked Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, State Police and other law enforcement agencies that helped establish the procedures.

In a written statement to JCC members, Zakalik also praised his staff's professional actions and the members' cooperation in evacuating.

Monday's bomb threats are nothing new. In all, 48 JCCs in 26 states and one Canadian province received nearly 60 bomb threats during January, according to an association of Jewish community centers across the nation.

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February 21, 2017


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