Teen arrested in Snapchat threat to blow up his flight to Guatemala, Texas cops say

A Texas teenager faces felony charges after prosecutors said he Snapchatted a bomb threat while boarding a flight from Houston to Guatemala with his father this month.

It was just a joke,” said 17-year-old Hector Fonseca, according to KPRC, which reported that he was traveling with a church group on United Airlines. “It was just a stupid joke.”

Joke or not, the two threatening messages Fonseca is accused of sending Aug. 3 over the disappearing photo app caught Snapchat’s attention the next day — and so the social media company tipped off the FBI, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Harris County.

But by the time federal law enforcement found out, Fonseca’s flight had left Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport and landed in Guatemala, the affidavit said. Houston police weren’t told of the posts until Aug. 6, according to the Houston Chronicle.

If police had known of the threat before takeoff, authorities would have had to ground every outbound and inbound plane, shut down airport operations and evacuate all workers except emergency personnel while law enforcement looked for potential bombs, the affidavit said.

When federal agents went to Fonseca’s neighborhood in Humble, Texas, to investigate the threat on Aug. 4, they spoke with the child of local homeowners who said “he knew why law enforcement was speaking to him and that it was regarding the … post made by Hector Fonseca,” the affidavit said. The child said he “saw the threat of violence” over Snapchat and showed it to the agents at their request, according to the affidavit.

One of the posts said “blown this s--- up” along with a smiley face and bomb emoji, while the other appeared to show the Snapchat user holding his passport and said “time to blow up the plane,” the affidavit said. Both posts were taken at the airport and published to the user’s Snapchat story, meaning any of his friends on the platform could see the posts temporarily, according to the affidavit.

Fonseca is charged with making terroristic threats, the affidavit said.

Agents were waiting for Fonseca when he returned to Texas, according to KPRC.

While setting Fonseca’s bond, Magistrate Lisa Porter questioned prosecutors as to whether they knew if the threat was credible or “just a kid popping off,” the Chronicle reported.

“I’d like to know if he has any bomb-making ability,” Porter said, according to the newspaper. “Maybe get a search warrant and go over there and check that s--- out. That’s what I’d do. I don’t know for sure. It makes me nervous.”

Prosecutors said Fonseca faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, KTRK reports.

Fonseca has been released on $10,000 bond, according to Harris County court records.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.