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Manatee sheriff: Person used app, fake VPN to schedule 2 bomb threats at Parrish high school

Law enforcement says there is a $500 reward for anyone who can give information that will lead to an arrest.

PARRISH, Fla. — A high school in Manatee County was evacuated Tuesday morning after the school received two bomb threats, school officials said.

Speaking during a news conference at Parrish Community High School, Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells said that the person, or people, who made the two bomb threats used an app called Fortify Florida.

"[With this app] you can remain anonymous," Wells said. "The problem that we're having is that when they use the app, the host sight might not be in the state of Florida.

"It pushes the information through one host site that's in California and we've located an IP address out in California. We got subpoenas out there now trying to gather that information."

Wells also said that the person who made the threat used a different VPN — called a virtual private network that helps disguise who you are online — pushed through a host site in Romania. 

Although the person used different VPNs, Wells said his unit believes that the person made the threats in the Parrish or Manatee County area.

At around 9:15 a.m., students were evacuated to the football field after school officials received the bomb threat saying that they would go off at 10:15 a.m., according to Parrish Community High School Principal Craig Little.

School officials said they did not allow parents on campus to pick up their children, per the district's evacuation procedure. 

Little also said that it took law enforcement three and a half hours to finish their search. Students were allowed back into the classrooms after law enforcement conducted a thorough, comprehensive search and found no explosives.

The use of fake VPNs may make it more challenging to find the person responsible, according to Wells. But he is calling on students' parents to talk to their kids and make sure they are not involved with the threats. 

"To the parents of our community, I need for you to seriously sit down and talk to your children about making vile threats, or any threats whatsoever," he said. "When we find whoever is responsible, we are going to put them in jail and they are going to be charged with a felony, and that felony is going to stay with them for the rest of their life."

Law enforcement says Crime Stoppers of Manatee County is offering a $500 reward for anyone who can give information that will lead to an arrest.

School officials say the recent bomb threats is the fourth one in the last six days at the high school, and at least 98 since 2019 at Manatee County schools.

The FBI will be assisting the sheriff's office with their investigation in California and Romania, Wells mentioned. 

Anyone with information regarding the bomb threats is asked to contact the sheriff's office at 941-747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS. People can also submit a tip at manateecrimestoppers.com.

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