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Bomb threats, ransom demand prompt evacuation of 4 high schools

 FCPS Police Chief Martin Schafer and Superintendent Demetrus Liggins spoke to the news media.


Shortly after noon Tuesday (Sept. 21), Fayette County Public Schools officials received an anonymous message through the district’s STOP Tip line that bombs had been placed on four high school campuses. The message demanded a $500,000 ransom payment to a Bitcoin account. The unusual nature of the threat, the specific information it contained, and condensed timeline for response prompted officials to immediately evacuate all four campuses at Frederick Douglass, Henry Clay, Lafayette, and Paul Laurence Dunbar high schools. The district also canceled all high school activities.

“There is no room for error when it comes to the health and safety of our students and staff,” said Superintendent Demetrus Liggins. “Our schools have emergency plans in place for situations like this, and their response was phenomenal.”

Officers with the FCPS Police Department and Lexington Police Department assisted with the evacuation, which involved roughly 10,000 students and employees at the four sites. Since SCAPA at Bluegrass is on the Lafayette campus, students and staff from that building were also instructed to move to an alternate location.

“The credit is really to our school leaders,” said FCPS Police Chief Martin Schafer. “Everything went smoothly, and we quickly got students and staff to safety.”

While some officers coordinated efforts at schools, the Lexington Police Intelligence Unit and Federal Bureau of Investigations launched their investigation into the source of the threat. That work is continuing, Schafer said, “but we can say the threat was received from outside the Fayette County Public Schools network.”

Once students and staff moved to safety, officers began inspecting the buildings for any potential threat. Experts from multiple agencies – including the Hazardous Devices Unit, ATF, and Sheriff’s Office – responded, and explosives-detecting dogs were used.

Normal school operations resumed the next day.

“We’d like to thank our entire community – students, families, employees, and local and federal law enforcement officials – for their incredible response and action,” Liggins said. “Since moving to Lexington this summer, I have found reason every day to be impressed with the way people in Fayette County step up to support our students, staff, and schools. Today affirmed once more that this is a very special place.”

Contact: District spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall, (859) 381-4101 or 699-1441

(Revised Sept. 22; posted Sept. 21, 2021)