The emailed threats started arriving in inboxes in Buffalo, across the country and in Canada early Thursday afternoon.
The message claimed someone planted a bomb at the recipient’s place of work and demanded $20,000, paid in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, and warned against contacting the police.
Within minutes, the emails triggered widespread building evacuations and a massive police response — but nothing to show the threats were credible.
After hours of searching buildings in downtown Buffalo and major metro areas nationwide, law enforcement agencies largely deemed the threats a hoax.
“At this time, it appears that these threats are meant to cause disruption and/or obtain money,” the New York Police Department wrote on Twitter, “so the credibility of these threats can be assessed as likely NOT CREDIBLE.”
Numerous locations reported receiving similar, poorly worded emails, beginning with the line: "I write you to inform you that my mercenary has carried the bomb (lead azide) into the building where your company is located.”
The emails caused significant disruption in downtown Buffalo and around the region.
Employees evacuated several downtown office buildings, including the Ellicott Square Building, the Catholic Health System administration building and the law offices of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria.
Buffalo police searched the buildings before clearing them for employees to return. Bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in to search the law firm, an employee said.
Catholic Health employees left the building around 2:15 p.m. in response to the bomb threat, said JoAnn Cavanaugh, a system spokeswoman. Once Buffalo police and firefighters gave the all clear, workers were allowed to return to their offices, she said. The entire process took about an hour.
The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority starting at 3 p.m. shut down outbound and inbound Metro Rail service downtown at the request of Buffalo police, spokeswoman Helen Tederous said. The agency had not directly received a threat and normal service resumed after half an hour, she said.
The Erie County Sheriff's Office said on Twitter on Thursday afternoon that, due to the increased police presence downtown, all visitations at the Erie County Holding Center were canceled.
Both Niagara University and Niagara County Community College reported receiving threats.
Niagara University sent a campus-wide email stating that several people at the school had received an emailed bomb threat and noted the wider reports of similar threats. University officials said they checked with law enforcement officials and determined the threat was a hoax.
NCCC also tweeted that police investigated and there was nothing to the threat.
The reported threats in this region came as national outlets described a raft of threats directed at financial institutions, news outlets, government buildings, schools and other institutions across the country. Ontario Provincial Police also reported investigating numerous threats, without finding any devices.
Numerous police agencies are reporting on social media that the threats haven't been substantiated.
Buffalo Police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said local law enforcement were aware of the threats.
“There are a number of local institutions, not only in Erie, as well as Niagara County that received an email bomb threat," Rinaldo said in a statement. "We’ve been in touch with the State Police, as well as the county sheriff, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and are addressing them as they arrive.”