Following the HBCUs at Risk hybrid hearing in support of campus safety on Thursday, law officials said they have identified six suspects who they believe are behind the racially targeted bomb threats.
According to the PBS, Ryan Young, executive assistant director of the FBI intelligence branch, said investigators have identified “one person and a small group,” despite threats being copycat crimes. Law enforcement said they are looking to make arrests in the 59 cases during the hearing. All six suspects are underaged juveniles.
“Our intention is to bring these individuals to justice,” Young said during the press hearing.
Students revealed the acts of violence had caused anxiety in their lives, and HBCU campuses had prompted lockdowns and evacuations following bomb threats. Emmanuel Ukot, president of the student government at the Xavier University of Louisiana, shared his fellow students have been afraid to be on campus, and some have sought mental health services.
“The triple impact of COVID-19, the ongoing racial reckoning in the country, and the bomb threats on HBCU campuses is having a real and lasting impact on our students,” he said.
Students at Howard University were given a day off for their mental health after their second threat.
“The added stress and in some cases paranoia that students, faculty and staff have subsequently experienced cannot be overstated,” president of Howard’s student government, Kylie Burke, said.
Lawmakers from both parties expressed their frustrations surrounding the lack of arrests.
“This committee is looking for guarantees from the FBI that there’s going to be arrests made,” Republican Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana said. “There should be no systemic fear at our colleges and universities in America.”
Michelle Asha Cooper, an acting assistant education secretary, told lawmakers that HBCUs would need assistance following the threats. There has also been an increased burden on on-campus mental health systems.
“Campus leaders do not have all the resources at their disposal to respond appropriately to the ongoing threats and are not fully aware of the resources available from the federal government,” she said.
At the start of January, HBCUs resulted in at least 36 HBCUs targeted by bomb threats. Institutions were threatened on the first day of Black History Month. More than one-third have been the center of racially targeted bomb threats via telephone.
Last week, Democrats proposed increasing HBCU funding for security, infrastructure and other costs.