Updated at 6:04 p.m. with additional details.
Edmonds police detectives are looking for a man who made phone threats at five child care centers in different Edmonds neighborhoods Monday afternoon.
During a briefing with the news media Monday, Edmonds police spokesman Sgt. Josh McClure said the situation began at around 12:45 p.m. Monday when one of the child care centers received a threat, which was followed by phone threats at the four other locations.
Three of the child care centers were Grow With Us Preschool and Child Care locations — on 84th Avenue West in the 5 Corners neighborhood, on Edmonds Way and on 196th Street Street Southwest. The other two were Great Kids Academy locations in the Lake Ballinger neighborhood — on 76th Avenue West and on 240th Street Southwest.
Edmonds police responded immediately, assisted by officers from the Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace police departments as well as the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. “We provided a presence first of all to make sure everybody was OK, there was nobody injured, there was no suspect at any location,” McClure said.
The scene continued to evolve throughout the afternoon, as the suspect began making more phone calls and making “more significant threats,” McClure said. “There were threats to shoot at the location, there were threats to harm people,” he said. “The threats were graphic. They continued get more and more violent and increasingly hostile.”
Police determined that the calls were coming through a messaging app. A detective was able to have about a half-hour phone conversation with the suspect during the afternoon, McClure said.
“We’re not sure why these businesses are targeted,” McClure said. “This appears to be a coordinated effort to cause fear.”
All of the child care facilities went into lockdown when they became aware of the situation, McClure said. “As we were starting to develop information that there wasn’t an immediate threat, we let them make the determination of how they wanted to handle their business for the rest of the day.”
It will also be up to the child care centers to decide whether they will open for business on Tuesday, he said. “We’ve given them the information we have, which is probably going to continue to evolve overnight. We will do the best we can to provide as much presence as we can.”
“We can’t guarantee there’s no threat until we find this person,” he added. “Until we have this person identified and we have him with us, we can’t say for certain that there isn’t a possibility of violence.”
Because of the nature and escalation of the threats, police are pursuing all leads in an effort to find the suspect, McClure added.
“We are not sure where he is,” McClure said. “But we have not stopped working on this.”
McClure said police don’t know whether the suspect has the ability to carry out the threats he made, but added: “Until we know that for certain, we’re going to act on this matter as if there was a potential for violence to be carried out. We don’t say that to create panic or fear, but we’re also not going to turn our back on something just because it’s not really likely.”
McClure noted that since the situation involved child care centers, it struck a particular nerve with police, many of whom have families of their own. “If you want to get a large police response, threaten children,” he said. “Now we’re going to come find you.”