Saskatoon

Saskatoon teen accused of 'swatting' heading to New Jersey to face Princeton bomb threat charge

A Saskatoon teen accused of shutting down Princeton University with a bomb threat last fall is heading to New Jersey to face his charge.

Louisiana judge orders extradition at May 3 hearing

Firestone Library at Princeton University was one of the buildings targetted by the bomb threat. (Princeton University Office of Communications)

A Saskatoon teen accused of making a bogus bomb threat that closed down parts of Princeton University last fall is heading to New Jersey to face the charge.

A public information officer in Mercer County, New Jersey, confirmed Monday that a judge at an extradition hearing in Louisiana had ordered the 15-year-old boy moved to Mercer County to face a charge of second-degree false public alarm, stemming from the boy allegedly called a bomb threat in to Princeton University on Sept. 19, 2020.

The extradition hearing is the latest development in a cross-border case that began with Saskatoon police investigating the teen two weeks before the bomb threat to Princeton.

On Sept. 3, 2020, the Saskatoon and Edmonton police services joined with police in the U.S. to investigate "a youth engaged in 'swatting' activities on both sides of the border," said a Saskatoon police news release at the time of the boy's arrest this March.

Swatting is the practice of making false reports to police in hopes of provoking an armed response. The name derives from police responding to the calls with their special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams.

The teen was arrested in Vacherie, La., on March 24 and has been in custody at a juvenile detention centre there ever since.

How a 15-year-old from Saskatoon came to be in the small community on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is becoming clearer. The teen cannot be named because of his age.

CBC News has learned that the teen is originally from the United States. The boy's mother married a man from Saskatoon in June 2019 and, since then, the family has spent time in both Saskatoon and Vacherie, where the boy's grandparents live.

An officer with the St. James Parish Sheriff's office told CBC that the teen was taking online classes from Saskatoon at the time of his arrest.

In early March, the Princeton University police reached out through the FBI to the St. James Parish Sheriff's Office. The officer said they wanted to confirm the teen and his family were in Vacherie.

"We were able to 100 per cent identify that he was at the residence. It's a residence in a pretty nice subdivision," the officer said. 

Sheriff Willy Martin Jr. told The Advocate, a Louisiana newspaper, that deputies served a warrant on the grandparents' house and arrested the boy without incident.

"The grandparents didn't even know why we were there," Martin said.

"Obviously, you could see that they were upset over it, but you know they did not know the kid was in some trouble."

Martin declined interview requests from CBC.

Saskatoon police said in a news release that the teen will likely face additional charges as the complex investigation continues.

"This individual committed many other calls to law enforcement agencies, schools, universities, airports, businesses, and personal residences, threatening violence with weapons had occurred and people were critically injured," the news release said.

"All of the incidents committed by the individual were false yet incited panic and fear, and cost tens of thousands of dollars in emergency response throughout both Canada and the U.S. Thankfully, no persons were injured as a result."

The ongoing investigation involves local, state and national police across the U.S. and Canada. The agencies include Saskatoon Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, the United States Secret Service, the Regional Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT), Princeton University police and the Louisiana State Police.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.

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