Pembroke Pines police have surveillance video of three people leaving a wooden dresser scrawled with hateful messages in the wee hours Wednesday morning in the courtyard of Flanagan High School.
The abandoned furniture was deemed a “suspicious package” and forced an hours-long lockdown at the school before classes resumed at about noon.
At an afternoon news conference, police Capt. Al Xiques told reporters the surveillance video shows three people putting the dresser on campus at about 3 a.m.
“Our detectives are working diligently to try to identify these individuals,” Xiques said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
A school employee discovered the dresser at around 7 a.m. Administrators asked students to evacuate even before police arrived, Xiques said.
Written on the dresser, according to Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4, were “Open Me” and “Surprise Inside,” as well as curse words, a swastika and the racial slur “I hate n------.” Xiques said it is too soon for police to determine if the incident should be considered a hate crime.
Shortly before 9:30 a.m., a bomb-squad robot probed the drawer chest, at one point knocking it backwards, CBS 4 reported. It broke at its base, revealing a cinder block at the bottom drawer.
The public school, at 12800 Taft St., announced on its website that it had evacuated the campus and that all staff and students were safe.
Parents lined up for blocks around 10 a.m. to pick up their kids, who were waiting behind a fence and called up one by one by school officials. Some kids jumped the fence.
Students who could not be picked up by parents right away were escorted to Walter C. Young Middle School at 901 NW 129th Ave., where they waited to be rejoined with their families later.
Wednesday’s incident happened a day after a group of rabbis, pastors and imams came together in downtown Miami to decry hate. It also came on the eve of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year and the start of High Holy Days for the Jewish religion.
The “I Am My Brother’s Keeper” Interfaith Assembly took place this week in response to a recent spate of anti-Semitic vandalism in South Florida.
In recent months, swastikas, the letters KKK and the word Hamas have appeared on at least three temples, a supermarket wall and cars.
In August, Orthodox Rabbi Joseph Raksin was shot and killed as he walked to temple on Shabbat. Police have said there are no indications that the killing was motivated by religion, but have not ruled out the possibility.
Hava Holzhauer, the Florida Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League, called Wednesday’s incident “a vicious message of hate, facially targeting African Americans and Jews,” adding that it was “particularly disturbing” because of the Rosh Hashana holiday.
Miami Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei and photographer Walter Michot contributed to this report.