Police say that a threat called into a New Jersey mosque Thursday was likely a hoax, hours after heavily armed police, SWAT teams in armored trucks and bomb-disabling robots swarmed the center.
Someone called police and said there was an armed gunman att the Islamic Center of Passaic County on Derrom Avenue in Paterson came in about 4 a.m., sources say.
The building was evacuated, and authorities gave the "all clear" about four hours later after conducting extensive sweeps of the building.
Authorities found two potentially suspicious packages, but both were deemed harmless, according to the law enforcement sources. Police say they think the call was a hoax "swatting" call.
The Passaic County Prosecutor's Office will likely open a criminal investigation into the call, police say.
"It's foolish, it's foolhardy and its childish," said Patterson Police Chief William Fraher. "Hopefully these people are identified and dealt with."
The center's chairman, Nabil Abassi, was at the mosque for morning prayers when officers with assault rifles came in to evacuate the building. Heavy police and SWAT presence remained at the scene for hours as the building was secured.
The hoax call came in the middle of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting.