On Monday, Feb. 27, 2017 a bomb threat was received by phone at Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park at around 5:45 p.m. The school was not in session at the time, but members of the school athletic teams and some staff were on campus and were evacuated. The school was searched, and no suspicious devices were located. On Wed., March 8, 2017 at approximately 11:35 a.m., another threat was emailed to staff members at Rancho Cotate High School. The email mentioned explosive devices as well as the threat of a mass shooting that was going to occur at the school with over 1,400 students. All of the students and staff were evacuated, closing down the school for the rest of the day. The threats were investigated and there were no evidence leading investigators to believe they were credible.
Detectives from Rohnert Park Public Safety began working with the FBI to determine who was responsible for the threats. In April of 2017, the FBI charged an 18-year old Israeli man with making numerous bomb and active shooter threats to Jewish Community Centers, schools and other institutions across the United States. The individual was operating on a Dark Web marketplace where he offered to make the threats in exchange for payment. Through their investigation the FBI was able to link that individual to the threats made to Rancho Cotate High School.
FBI Agents further assisted Rohnert Park Detectives with the analysis of virtual currency and other financial transactions, as well as Dark Web portal transactions. That investigation led to the identification of a former Rancho Cotate High School student as the individual who solicited and paid for the threats in 2017, while the student was a junior at the school. Although the former student is now an adult, due to the fact that the student was a minor at the time the crimes were committed, on March 8, 2019, Rohnert Park Detectives obtained an arrest warrant for the former student through the Sonoma County Juvenile Court. In April of 2019 the suspect turned himself in on the warrant and was recently convicted for the crimes.
Law enforcement takes any type of threat seriously because of the fear threats incite throughout the community. Rohnert Park Detectives and the FBI showed their continued commitment to identifying individuals who use the Dark Web to hide their identity in order to violate the law and bringing those individuals to justice.