The FBI arrested a child Tuesday in connection with dozens of “swatting” incidents targeting synagogues throughout the nation this summer — including two in Orange County.
The agency did not provide the minor’s age, gender or name. The juvenile was taken into custody at home, said spokesperson Laura Eimiller, but the FBI did not identify the city.
The practice of “swatting” refers to when an individual or group of people intentionally misinform law enforcement of a fake threat so that authorities respond to a specified location with tactical units or SWAT teams.
Authorities say the juvenile suspect was arrested on suspicion of two such incidents at Orange County synagogues.
Congregation B’nai Israel in Tustin was evacuated after being targeted with a swatting call on July 22.
Police also responded to a fake bomb threat in Fullerton on Aug. 12. Law enforcement could be seen entering Temple Beth Tikvah about 45 minutes into a Saturday morning Shabbat service that was streamed on Facebook.
About two minutes later, Rabbi Mati Kirschenbaum asked templegoers to evacuate the building.
Those were just two of the dozens of hoax threats allegedly made against religious, educational and public institutions across the country this summer.
Authorities allege the minor suspect helped a group suspected of reporting false threats against at least 25 synagogues in 13 states between July and August.
The FBI says the juvenile created the server that hosted the swatting network. That server, which has since been taken down, was a safe space for extremist activity, including “the glorification of highly publicized mass killers,” according to the agency.
“The false swatting threats made in this case drained law enforcement resources and caused a negative financial impact on local communities,” an FBI statement said. “Evidence has shown that making false threats can cause significant distress to victims and can cause physical injury to first responders or other victims.”
The Orange County’s district attorney’s office is expected to bring charges against the suspect, according to the FBI.