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Los Angeles Teen Killed as Fake Terror Threat Sends City Reeling

LOS ANGELES (CN) - City officials are under fire Tuesday after a Los Angeles teenager was killed amid the decision to close public schools, shutting out 700,000 students, over a bomb threat that other jurisdictions quickly dismissed as a hoax.

Shannon Haber, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Unified School District, declined to identify the 17-year-old male student whom a city service truck hit and killed at around 7:30 a.m. while crossing a street in Highland Park.

Right around that time, the second-largest school district in the country announced that it had received a "credible terror threat" and would not be opening its doors.

Against this backdrop, however, the mayor and police chief in New York City said a school official there had received the same threat but that authorities saw right through it.

"In fact, it's very important not to overreact in situations like this," Mayor Bill de Blasio said this morning, according to an Associated Press report.

It took until Tuesday afternoon for U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat representing Los Angeles in Congress, to confirm that the threat in L.A. was a "hoax."

"The investigation into LAUSD threat is still ongoing," Schiff posted to his Twitter account at 1 p.m. "Preliminary assessment is it was a hoax to disrupt school districts in large cities."

Meanwhile LAUSD spokeswoman Haber still refused to label the threat a hoax this afternoon, speaking to the press at the district's downtown headquarters.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also refused to discredit the threat at a 10 a.m. press conference, noting that his community is still reeling from the Dec. 2 terrorist attacks in San Bernardino.

"The decision to close the schools is not mine to make but it is mine to support," Garcetti said.

LAPD chief Charlie Beck bit back at the Big Apple, calling it "irresponsible to criticize a decisionmaker."

New York City Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton had told reporters this morning that authorities dismissed the threat one NYC official received as a hoax in part because the email improperly lowercased the first letter of "Allah," the Arabic word for God.

"The language in the email would lead us to believe that this is not a jihadist initiative," he said. "That would be incredible to think that any jihadist would not spell Allah with a capital 'A.'"

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian told the L.A. Times that officials have a "lot to learn from" the events of the day.

"If it does turn out to be a hoax, it has cost millions of dollars and it's outrageous," Krekorian said. "And someone needs to be held accountable and brought to justice for it."

But in an editorial, the LA Times said it supported the decision to close down the entire school system and send 700,000 students home.

"The email could be a hoax," the editorial states. "It could be a childish prank to get students out of final exams, or simply a mean-spirited effort to force more than a million people to change their patterns today out of fear.

"No matter. Even if there are no explosives-laden backpacks, no mysterious packages and no actual plan to harm children, the online threats that led to the closure Tuesday of every Los Angeles Unified school and preschool demonstrate for Angelenos what it means to be terrorized."

LAUSD superintendent Ramon Cortines also defended his decision to close the schools.

"Somebody has sent information that leads us to pause," Cortines said. "What we are doing today is no different than what we normally do, except that we are doing it in a mass way."

Perhaps in reference to the run-over student, Mayor Garcetti had posted on Twitter shortly before the press conference that LAUSD students could ride buses and trains free today.

"City of LA is supporting @LASchools today 2 ensure all students safe," the post states. "@ReadyLA activated. LAPD deployed @/near schools. Feds investg threat."

With parents in LA panicking, Garcetti urged the public in a statement to "remain calm."

In New York, Police Commissioner Bratton accused LAUSD of closing before having consulted with the LAPD.

The LAPD's Beck echoed the mayor's remarks, however, saying his department took the threat seriously and supported the school district's decision to close its sites.

Garcetti said the threatening email appeared Monday night and referred to many campuses.

Though the threat originated from Germany, Beck said it still could have originated closer to the United States.

The emails threatened multiple forms of violence, including explosive devices and assault rifles, that were specific to LA Unified, Beck added.

"We are still vetting this threat," Beck said this morning. "I will not categorize it as credible or noncredible at this point."

The threat led authorities with 13 agencies to conduct a morning search of all 900 LA campuses, while also walking through charter schools.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles Unified School District said one of its board members received the threat in an email from Frankfurt.

The LAUSD's police chief, Steven Zipperman, had called the decision to shut down one made out of an "abundance of caution."

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