NEW YORK (AP) — A math teacher now charged with building a bomb suddenly stopped showing up for classes after his school received a December bomb threat called in by an underage student he later was charged with raping, law enforcement officials said Friday.
When the teacher, Christian Toro, formally quit a few weeks later, school officials and law enforcement said they found something scary on his school laptop: a how-to guide on bomb making.
“After he resigned, (charter school company) Democracy Prep did a routine review of his laptop and was deeply disturbed by suspicious content,” company spokeswoman Rochelle Ritchie said. “We immediately notified law enforcement.”
Toro and his twin brother, Tyler Toro, were arrested Thursday and were charged with unlawfully manufacturing a destructive device. Christian Toro also was charged with distribution of explosive materials to a minor. The brothers have pleaded not guilty.
Law enforcement officials said they’re still piecing together the case and the brothers’ motivation was unclear but the brothers didn’t appear to be inspired by terror groups.
The investigation into the 27-year-old brothers started on Dec. 4, when the bomb threat was called in to the teacher’s school, Harlem Prep, officials said. A 15-year-old student was arrested and was charged with making the threatening call.
Christian Toro stopped showing up, and he formally quit on Jan. 10, but no one knew at the time he’d sexually assaulted the student, two law enforcement officials said.
The teacher’s brother turned in his school laptop, and the probe launched. The teacher later told agents that he’d come across the bomb making guide, “Explosives Book,” while researching the deadly 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, looked only at its contents and never meant to download it, a federal complaint said. He said he’d never built a bomb.
But students at his former school told agents that he paid at least two students about $50 an hour between October and January to break up fireworks and store the powder from them, said the complaint. One of the two teenage students who were paid was the girl he was accused of raping who called in the threat, the officials said.
Christian Toro apparently had taken the girl to his home on several occasions for sex, they said, and he was arrested on rape charges on Jan. 31.
The officials were not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
Agents got a warrant and searched the Toros’ apartment on Thursday, finding more than 30 pounds (14 kilograms) of various chemicals used in explosives, a box of firecrackers, a bag of metal spheres that could be used to pack a bomb with damaging projectiles and a diary, the complaint said. The law enforcement officials said the materials were capable of doing serious damage but not blowing up a building.
Agents searching the apartment also found a yellow backpack, which contained a purple index card with handwriting that said “under the full moon the small ones will know terror,” the complaint said.
School officials said Toro had worked for the charter since 2016.
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