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St. Louis Man Arrested For Threats Against Jewish Community Centers


Jewish groups across the country have received scores of bomb threats in recent weeks. Now a man in St. Louis has been charged with making a handful of those threats. Thirty-one-year-old Juan Thompson appeared in federal court today where prosecutors described him as a jilted lover who tried to pin the threats on his ex-girlfriend. NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Juan Thompson is charged with cyberstalking his ex-girlfriend almost immediately after they broke up last summer. Federal authorities say the harassment culminated in recent months with emailed and phoned-in bomb threats to Jewish community centers, schools and other institutions in New York, Michigan, Dallas and San Diego. Prosecutors say Thompson tried to make the threats look like they came from his ex or make it seem like she was trying to frame him for the threats. Among those targeted was the New York office of the Anti-Defamation League.

OREN SEGAL: The arrest of the individual responsible for at least eight of the bomb threats that the Jewish community has been enduring around the country is excellent news.

SCHAPER: Oren Segal heads the ADL's Center on Extremism. He notes that Thompson is charged with only a few of the more than 120 bomb threats made to Jewish centers nationwide since the November election.

SEGAL: We're not out of this yet, and I don't think anybody at ADL or the Jewish community feels like we are not going to see more bomb threats because of one arrest.

SCHAPER: In St. Louis where Thompson was arrested, authorities are looking into whether he played any role in desecrating a Jewish cemetery there. Rori Picker Neiss heads the Jewish Community Relations Council in St. Louis.

RORI PICKER NEISS: There is a sense still of some discomfort of knowing that this is something that's still hard to track, and so we're still remaining vigilant as a community.

SCHAPER: Until a year ago, Juan Thompson worked as a journalist for the online publication The Intercept. He was fired after being accused of making up quotes. Before that, he worked as an intern at NPR member station WBEZ but left early to take the job at The Intercept. Earlier today, Jewish leaders from across the country met with the FBI director. They discussed the significant increase in anti-Semitic incidents since last November. David Schaper, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.

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