Shortly after 3 p.m. Friday, dozens of Miami-Dade police SWAT teams descended onto Nicklaus Children's Hospital to investigate several phone calls claiming a bomb threat — and later a possible active shooter — within the hospital.
Code 13 — which means get out —blasted over the hospital’s loud speakers. Employees were told to run. Patients were evacuated outside, where they stood in the heat for hours.
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Three hours later, Miami-Dade Police said the hospital was safe, the calls were a hoax and patients and employees could return inside to the hospital.
“As of this moment right now, we have not found a subject or any evidence of an explosion. We are currently conducting an investigation on the origin of the phone calls that came in regarding these threats,’’ said Miami Dade Police Asssistant Director Alfredo Ramirez.
The SWAT teams, working with the Coral Gables Police Department and other law enforcement agencies, conducted multiple sweeps of the hospital — and found nothing, Ramirez said.
The announcement by police followed three tense hours at the hospital, 3100 SW 62nd Ave.
For Maritere Andreu, the first text came at 3:32 p.m. — “bomb threat.” The text was from her younger sister Melissa, an ER nurse at Nicklaus.
“It was the most horrifying thing in the world,” said Andreu, 36.
Andreu spent the next 20 to 30 minutes trying to calm her 27-year-old sister via text messaging. She'd worked at Nicklaus for five years, but she'd never heard Code 13 called on the loud speaker.
Then Melissa called, sobbing hysterically. They told her there was an active shooter
“They told her to run,” Andreu said. “She tells me to hang up, ‘I'm going to call mom and tell her I love her.' "
Melissa and a crowd of about 15 patients locked themselves into a patient room, then they were told to run again and ended up locked in a bathroom.
"There was a woman with a baby," Andreu said. "They were scared because the baby was crying."
They didn't want a shooter to hear them.
Meanwhile, inside the hospital, 12-year-old Shaniya Woots was awaiting finger surgery when she heard doctors say, “We have to hide quickly because something’s going on," she said.
"They didn't want to tell us because they didn't want us to freak out," said the young girl, standing on a sidewalk cordoned with police tape, dressed in jeans and a hospital gown.
Doctors brought their staff and patients into a room and locked all the doors. They were inside for two hours, and at one point, terror gripped the room when they heard noises outside.
"It was really a doctor, but they thought it was a suspect," Shaniya said. "Everybody started moving and panicking."
A doctor turned to her and said, "It's OK. Be quiet." Another doctor answered a call from her husband, a member of the SWAT team. He told them it was on the second floor.
At that, Shaniya paused. A paramedic beckoned from a nearby ambulance. It was time to go back inside.