Local PTECH part of nationwide threat

JOHNSTOWN — Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Pathways in Technology students were evacuated from the Jansen Avenue school on Thursday after an unspecified bomb threat was made by email to the school. It was one of hundreds made nationwide from a spoof email address.

According to a news release issued by HFM Board of Cooperative Educational Services, local law enforcement searched the building and determined the threat to be unfounded.

Johnstown Chief of Police David Gilbo said the school received an email that stated there was a bomb hidden in the school. Gilbo would not go into further detail on what the email said.

Gilbo said they went through bomb threat protocol and Saratoga County was able to send a bomb sniffing dog to assist in the search of the school.

“People just have to stay vigilant,” Gilbo said. “If you see something, notify us.”

The threat was taken seriously and as soon as staff was made aware of the email, they notified police and a lockdown was initiated shortly followed by an evacuation.

About 50 students and staff were in the building for after-school activities at the time, according to the release. Students were kept safe in a bus nearby until their home district transportation arrived.

“Our students’ safety is our priority, and our staff did a wonderful job of ushering the students who were in the building to safety and quickly accounting for everyone,” said Principal Mike Dardaris. “We thank Johnstown Police Department and HFM Regional Transportation Coordinator Terry Kersting for their quick and thorough response.”

Greater Johnstown School District also issued a news release stating that everyone was safe and no other school buildings were involved in the district.

“We are thankful that all students are safe,” said HFM BOCES Deputy Superintendent Lorraine Hohenforst. “We commend the Johnstown Police Department, the principal and staff at the PTECH school, the transportation staff, communication staff and appreciate all the support from our component school districts.”

This threat was just one of hundreds of bomb threats made to schools, businesses and government buildings across the U.S. However, there were no signs of explosives and authorities said the threats appeared to be a hoax.

Law enforcement agencies across the country dismissed the threats, saying they were meant to cause disruption and compel recipients into sending money and were not considered credible.

Some of the emails had the subject line: “Think Twice.” They were sent from a spoofed email address. The sender claimed to have had an associate plant a small bomb in the recipient’s building and that the only way to stop him from setting it off was by making an online payment of $20,000 in Bitcoin.

The FBI said it is assisting law enforcement agencies that are dealing with the threats.

“As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety,” the FBI said in a statement.

Thursday’s scare came less than two months after prominent Democratic officials and CNN’s Manhattan offices were targeted with package bombs. The suspect in that case, Cesar Sayoc, is in jail while awaiting trial.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

By Patricia Older

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