Four Lexington high schools evacuated after bomb threat, ransom demand

·6 min read

Fayette County Schools officials on Tuesday took the unusual move of simultaneously evacuating four of Lexington’s six high schools due to bomb threats.

The schools were Douglass, Dunbar, Lafayette and Henry Clay.

The evacuations brought a heavy law enforcement response Tuesday afternoon, led parents to line up outside the schools to pick up their children and snarled traffic around the high schools. They also caused confusion as schools followed different dismissal procedures, with some releasing students one at a time, and others in large groups.

At a news conference later Tuesday, school officials said the bomb threat that prompted the evacuation came with a demand for a $500,000 payment to a Bitcoin account.

Shortly after noon Tuesday, Fayette County Public School 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 the condensed timeline for response prompted officials to evacuate all four high schools — Henry Clay, Frederick Douglass, Lafayette and Paul Laurence Dunbar — immediately, said Superintendent Demetrus Liggins.

As of 5 p.m., no arrests had been made. No one was injured and no explosive devices were found.

At Lafayette High School, students were evacuated from the building around the third lunch period. Teachers were told to withhold students from third lunch, then told to evacuate minutes later, the Lafayette Times reported.

At Henry Clay High School, some students were in hallways, going to class or lunch when they were told to go back to class and then were evacuated to the football field.

“It was just a regular day, then probably like 10 minutes into class was when we evacuated,” said Andrew Axalon, a student at Henry Clay High School.

“I was leaving lunch and they just said everybody needs to evacuate so we just went on the football field. I was really confused,” said Clay Boyd, student at Henry Clay High School.

Students were not given an indication of why they needed to evacuate to the football field.

Students from Henry Clay High School stand on the football field after the school was evacuated because of a bomb threat on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021.
Students from Henry Clay High School stand on the football field after the school was evacuated because of a bomb threat on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021.

“Some of us kind of figured it out from other people because it was happening at other schools, but most of the teachers don’t even know what’s going on. It was kind of just between students,” said Andrew Axalon.

Students said it took five to ten minutes to evacuate to the football field.

By 1:35 p.m., Fayette Superintendent Demetrus Liggins said all students and staff had safely evacuated the buildings and were gathered in the football stadiums.

“Our law enforcement agency partners have informed us that the complete inspection of our buildings will take several hours. Students will remain at the stadiums until the end of the school day, at which time we will follow regular dismissal procedures. All afterschool activities are cancelled,” he said.

Liggins had released an initial statement just before 1 p.m.:

“Out of an abundance of caution we are evacuating Frederick Douglass, Henry Clay, Lafayette, and Paul Laurence Dunbar high schools after receiving bomb threats against those facilities. Law enforcement officers are inspecting the buildings for any potential threat before students and staff will be allowed to return. We will keep you updated on this developing situation.”

Families received a message to the same effect.

Parents and guardians gather outside Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Ky., after a bomb threat was reported at the school.
Parents and guardians gather outside Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Ky., after a bomb threat was reported at the school.

A short time later, the district sent a follow-up message asking families “not to come to campus. We should be back in the bldg soon.”

Liggins then sent parents an email that said: “Our buildings are being inspected for viable threats at this time. We are asking families not to come to campus as we hope to have students back in the building as soon as possible.”

Many parents went to the campuses anyway, lining up to get their children dismissed.

Lexington and FCPS law enforcement had responded to the four schools, and some roads in the immediate areas were shut down. Main roads near the schools, such as Winchester and Richmond Roads and Man o’ War Boulevard, remained open.

Just before 2 p.m., reports on social media indicated that some students were being released to their parents who had arrived at some of the schools.

Parents at Henry Clay High School in Lexington waited in line to pick up their children after a bomb threat was made against four Fayette County schools Tuesday.
Parents at Henry Clay High School in Lexington waited in line to pick up their children after a bomb threat was made against four Fayette County schools Tuesday.

By 2:20 p.m., Henry Clay High School had released many students from the football field, abandoning a gradual release. Parents were reuniting with their children at the western part of campus.

The PLD Lamplighter said in a Twitter post that the “district just sent a message that they don’t want families coming to campus, however, most Dunbar students appear to be leaving campus at this time.”

The Lafayette Times said parents were lined up at the stadium gates on that campus to get their children.

Before 1:30 p.m. Bryan Station High families received a message from school officials that said, “ We have not received any threats and have not been ordered to evacuate. We will keep families updated if we receive any additional information from the district.”

Bomb threat that caused evacuation of four Lexington schools demanded Bitcoin ransom

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