The first tip-off for New York City police that the alleged emailed threat to schools there and in Los Angeles today, which has been obtained by ABC News, may not be real was that it seemed remarkably similar to a plot line of the Showtime TV program “Homeland.”
“The instigator of the threat may be a ‘Homeland’ fan,” NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton told reporters. “Basically, watching ‘Homeland’ episodes that it mirrors, a lot of recent episodes of Homeland... This is not a credible threat. This is not something we’re concerned with.”
ABC News obtained a copy of the email that was sent to New York City school officials that Bratton said was “almost exactly the same” as the one that prompted school closings today in Los Angeles. The message says in part, “I am a devout Muslim, and was once against violence, but I have teamed up with a local jihadist cell as it is the only way I’ll be able to accomplish my massacre the correct way.”
“Something big is going down. Something very big. It will make national headlines. Perhaps, even international ones,” the message reads. The writer claims he was bullied and rejected at “one of the district high schools,” but does not say which.
“Every school in the New York City district is being targeted. We have bombs hidden in lockers already at several schools,” the email says. In addition to explosives, the email says “nerve gas” would also be a part of the attack. Bratton presumably drew the “Homeland” comparison from this portion, since a nerve gas threat is part of this season’s story line.
While thousands of children were kept from school in Los Angeles, New York officials said they knew almost immediately that it was a hoax.
“It was so generic, so outlandish and posted to so many school systems simultaneously,” NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio said.
Bratton indicated that an analysis of the email indicated to the NYPD that it was not actually an Islamist threat.
“The language in the email would lead us to believe this is not a jihadist initiative,” he said. “For example, that Allah was not spelled with a capital ‘A’. That would be incredible to think that any jihadist would not spell Allah with a capital ‘A’.”
An official briefed on the situation who spoke to ABC News said that in addition to New York and Los Angeles, two other school districts were also threatened. The email to Los Angeles originated in Germany, school officials there said, and Bratton said the one to NYC came from “abroad.”
Nick Casale, a former NYPD detective, told ABC News it should have been clear the threat was not legitimate early on.
“Once they saw that [threats to other places], it was a cut-and-paste job,” Casale said. “How can one person be in Los Angeles and New York at the same time?”
Los Angeles school officials said the mass closings came out of an abundance of caution in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings in which authorities say an ISIS-inspired couple gunned down 14 people earlier this month.
This report has been updated.