California man allegedly threatened shooting at Sandy Hook for ISIS, feds say

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A California man has been arrested after he allegedly threatened to commit mass shootings and other violent acts at places across the U.S., including Sandy Hook, officials say.

In a release, the U.S. Attorney for the District for the Central District of California’s office said Eduardo Vicente Pelayo Rodriguez, a 31-year-old from Riverside, was arrested on an 18-count indictment alleging he placed “swatting calls” threatening to commit mass shootings at several schools in the Inland Empire of Southern California, Sandy Hook and to bomb Nashville International Airport on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.

The U.S. attorney’s office said Rodriguez is charged with one count of stalking, seven counts of transmitting threats in interstate commerce, seven counts of engaging in hoaxes and three counts of transmitting threats or false information regarding fire and explosives. It said he was arrested Tuesday and was arraigned in federal court in Riverside.

Swatting refers to falsely reporting in the name of another person that an emergency is in progress or about to occur, with the intent to lead to a response from emergency services or law enforcement to that other person’s location or lead to an investigation of them.

In January and February of 2023, the U.S. attorney’s office said, Rodriguez used a Voice over Internal Protocol service to place more than a dozen calls impersonating the victim. Initially, it said, Rodriguez called a suicide prevention center and a veterans’ crisis hotline, claimed to be the victim, and said that he was contemplating committing suicide or killing others.

The U.S. attorney’s office said Rodriguez then allegedly called school staff at seven different elementary schools — in Riverside and San Bernardino counties in Southern California, as well as Sandy Hook – and threatened to commit either a mass shooting or bombing at the schools.

Lastly, the U.S. attorney’s office said, Rodriguez allegedly called Nashville International Airport in Tennessee and told them he had planted a bomb on a plane and in the airport. During the call, it said, he told staff “this is for ISIS,” and “one hour, boom.”

Law enforcement responded to these phone calls and determined they were fake, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

“The sorts of ‘swatting’ crimes alleged against this defendant are highly troubling,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “The indictment alleges that the defendant placed calls to schools, airports, and other locations that were designed to cause maximum fear and trigger an emergency response. ‘Swatting’ is a serious crime that can cause great trauma and risk loss of life, so it is important that we hold wrongdoers accountable.”

Krysti Hawkins, the acting assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said Rodriguez’s swatting attacks included “callous targeting of an open wound at Sandy Hook, without regard for the potential consequences of this insidious type of hoax”.

“Perpetrators of swatting hoaxes should understand that the FBI and our local partners take these threats seriously and that the penalties – if convicted – are considerable,” she said.

If found guilty of the charges, the U.S. attorney’s office said, Rodriguez would face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison on the stalking count, five years on each of the threats counts, five years on each of the hoax counts and 10 years on each of the counts relating to fire and explosives.

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