For one week in 2013, the 911 call center in New Orleans experienced a flurry of bomb threats — all from a man in a yellow folding chair.
Jahvar Hooks, 31, made more than 40 scare calls to the New Orleans emergency call center from Aug. 12 to Aug. 19, 2013, first from an out-of-service cellphone and then from local pay phones, he admitted on Tuesday.
He cleared out the Orleans Parish Criminal District Courthouse with one of two bomb threats to that building, and he brought the Municipal and Traffic Court building to a halt with another. Yet another call led to the evacuation of Craig Elementary School in Treme and a search of the campus for explosives. Hooks also targeted hotels and casinos.
He acknowledged as much in federal court Tuesday, pleading guilty to a charge of maliciously conveying false information, a crime that carries a maximum 10-year sentence.
Hooks is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 6 by U.S. District Judge Lance Africk.
Police and the FBI caught up with him on the evening of Aug. 19, 2013, after tracking one of the calls to a pay phone outside the Rampart Food Store. That phone was where Hooks most frequently called in his bomb threats, according to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Natalie Phelan.
A surveillance camera at a business there gave authorities a good look at the caller, and police tracked down Hooks in the 500 block of North Rampart Street, right by the 1st District police station.
He had planted himself in his chair near a pay phone. Police watched as Hooks stood, picked up the phone, “appeared to make a brief call and walked away.”
Then they arrested him, and Hooks “spontaneously admitted to making numerous calls and saying ‘crazy things,’ ” according to the “factual basis” for his plea.
Hooks told police that he had made the Craig School bomb threat a week earlier, shortly after calling 911 to request an ambulance for mental health issues and waiting for hours with no response.
He “did not believe that the operators were taking him seriously” and grew frustrated, he told authorities. Hooks also said he had been to Covenant House earlier that day trying unsuccessfully to get counseling, according to the factual basis.
In September, Hooks was deemed incompetent to assist in his own defense following an examination. He was sent to a special federal facility in North Carolina before he was deemed last month to have been restored to competency.
Court records show that Hooks has a criminal history in Orleans Parish that includes marijuana and prostitution convictions.
Upon his arrest, he admitted that an hour earlier, in the 911 call that flagged the FBI and police, he had reported a bomb at the Empress Hotel on Ursulines Avenue.
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