A 16-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of threatening acts of violence at the 2014 Vans U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, underway this weekend, authorities said.
The local teenager was booked into Orange County Juvenile Hall on Friday on suspicion of terrorist threats, according to a statement by the Huntington Beach Police Department.
About noon Friday, Huntington Beach police received a tip from another law enforcement agency of a threat of violence made on social media regarding the U.S. Open, the statement said.
Chief Robert Handy said Saturday that the New York Police Department's intelligence division had noticed the post, initially believing that it was a threat directed at the U.S. Open tennis competition in Flushing Meadows.
The post was published on Thursday, according to the police statement.
Officials are not naming which social media outlet was used or the threats made, but Handy said police believe that the suspect had previously published other “disturbing” and “dark” posts, some of which showed him posing with firearms. He said the suspect was publishing the posts using a pseudonym.
After the alert from New York, police said, investigators identified the threat to the surfing competition to be credible and began to monitor the suspect until a search warrant was obtained.
According to police, investigators served the warrant at the suspect's home at 7 p.m. and arrested him. Handy said the suspect told the arresting officers that he was “just messing around.”
“We don’t necessarily know that for sure,” Handy said. “His comment or statement to the officers last night was that he didn’t mean it. We’re not sure if that’s true or not, so that’s part of our investigation.”
The chief added that the teen had no prior criminal record.
Authorities said they seized a handgun and shotgun in the residence. Both firearms were legally acquired by the suspect’s family members, they said. Police said they also confiscated the teen’s electronic devices and are searching them for any additional evidence.
Authorities believe the suspect “acted alone and no overt acts occurred to carry out the threats,” according to the news release.
Huntington Beach officials and event organizers have worked to make the U.S. Open a safe event after a disturbance broke out at the end of the competition in 2013. As a result, this year’s event has been significantly scaled back and more tightly controlled.
There will be no live music stage or a public skate bowl, and alcohol sales and consumption are barred, organizers said. Also, police have taken "a lot of different steps" to bolster security, Handy said.
Handy said the department implemented additional measures as a result of the threat.