From mid-July through mid-September, bomb threats rattled public libraries throughout the Chicagoland area. Among the recipients were Crystal Lake, Addison, Morton Grove, Wilmette, Park Ridge, Oak Park, Warren-Newport (Gurnee), Aurora, Joliet, Schaumburg, Poplar Creek (Streamwood/Hanover Park), Evanston, Libertyville, Vernon Area Public Library (Lincolnshire), and Chicago’s Harold Washington Branch. These are just the public-facing stories. Other libraries in the area experienced bomb threats as well but either did not report them to the media and/or did not get their stories picked up by the media because they elected not to close following the threat.
This week, 23-year-old Jacob Spiro from Skokie, Illinois, was arrested in connection with several of those bomb threats.
Several of the north suburban police departments worked together to bring about the arrest. Spiro now faces a pair of felony charges related to making false terrorist threats and disorderly conduct. These are in connection with bomb threats in Skokie, Glenview, Morton Grove, Niles, Northbook, and Wilmette that include a Goodwill store, Wendy’s, Mariano’s grocery store, and threats made at the Morton Grove Public Library and the Skokie Public Library.
The two threats received by the Wilmette Public Library are not yet part of this series of charges. They may be added.
Digital forensics linked Spiro to the 11 bomb threats in Niles between September and October. 16 threats in Skokie came in the same time period, and they included local schools. Five additional bomb threats, dating back to March of this year, were also linked to Spiro.
Spiro had a preliminary court appearance Wednesday, October 11. Prosecutors in the case stated that Spiro admitted to the threats and did them because he enjoyed being excited. It appears as though Spiro had been enrolled in his middle school years at a facility that specializes in mental and behavioral health challenges. It is possible that in the coming weeks, the motivation behind the bomb threats may emerge less as part of a coordinated effort by political influence and instead from personal mental health challenges. Arrest does not presuppose guilt or innocence, as this story continues to unfold.
This arrest represents a significant step forward in uncovering the string of bomb threats that impacted libraries this summer. Though the current charges are tied only to two libraries, it is likely we will begin to see more cross-city and cross-county collaboration from law enforcement and the FBI in the coming weeks.
Library workers and educators have been under attack for nearly three years, and while it is unfortunate to note that bomb threats aren’t new, their escalation over the last month demands attention and action. These should be nationwide headlines, but they are hardly making a blip in their own local media. This stochastic terrorism is not only shutting down public institutions, but surrounding the few public goods in terror for workers and for users — this is, of course, the point, and it should enrage every taxpayer who helps fund these institutions.
In an era of ever-increasing book bans and social media accounts that instigate stochastic terrorism, Spiro’s arrest suggests that the incidents are being taken seriously. Hoax threats are serious federal crimes.