Threat prompted lockdown of Broward schools
PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. (WSVN) -- Thousands of students spent hours locked inside their classrooms Wednesday after a South Florida radio station received a threatening e-mail.
City of Pembroke Pines Police Capt. Dan Rakofsky said authorities lifted the lockdowns after further investigation into a threat sent to a radio station mentioning a mass shooting. "Based on information from the original phone threat this morning, we are confident that that threat has diminished to the point that we can step down the security around the schools somewhat, and the school board has decided to lift the lock down," said Rakofsky.
Rakofsky would not elaborate beyond his statement, only to say police had questioned and released several individuals but are still searching for the person that originally placed the phone call to WFTL 850 AM.
According to Rakofsky, further investigation revealed the same station received an email echoing those same sentiments, much earlier in the morning. Pembroke Pines Police did release a portion of that email, which stated: "I'm planning something big around the government building here in Broward County, maybe a post office, maybe even a school."
The writer said Joyce Kaufman, who is a host at the radio station, inspired the threat. Kaufman happens to have recently been announced as the Chief of Staff to recently elected Florida Rep. Alan West.
Words that Kaufman uttered during a July 4th rally in Fort Lauderdale may have come back to haunt her. "If ballots don't work, bullets will," Kaufman is heard saying.
Those are the words that sources said may have motivated a South Florida man to make threats of unthinkable violence. Seven News was told the man was watching MSNBC Tuesday night when a clip from the rally was shown. Sources believe Kaufman's words motivated him to write a threatening Email, which was sent to a radio station.
Part of the e-mail read: "Something big will happen. "The man's wife then called WFTL with her fears.
The combination set off a chain reaction of a lockdown on all of Broward County schools for most of the day.
Those at the radio station contacted police regarding the threats but would not comment to the media.
Meanwhile, schools within the second largest county of Florida, including private and charter schools, were all locked down for five hours after the station received a phone call at 8:50, Wednesday morning. According to Rakofsky, a woman called fearing her husband was headed to a school or other government building to commit a mass shooting.
As a result, 230,000 students were locked inside their classrooms until about 1:30 p.m. Broward Catholic schools, who follow alerts issued by Broward Schools, were also on the Code Red lockdown, as well as some libraries and postal offices.
Broward Schools superintendent Jim Notter explained it was the highest security lockdown possible, and he has no regrets issuing such an order. "One never overreacts when the safety of our employees and our children are at stake," he said. "It clearly was not an overreaction."
Even cafeteria workers delivering food for lunch were told to stay out. "We're locked down," said Al Catroppa, a cafeteria worker at one school. "All the children, they're all locked into their classrooms."
Some parents received worried text messages from their children. "It just says, 'pick me up,'" said one parent reading off her smart phone.
Police and schools officials had established a hotline that provided information to those concerned for children inside the schools. Those who called in said they felt very reassured by the school officials. Eva Mastroti, a parent, summed up the sentiments of most parents: "Anyway, nothing happen, but we're happy everybody's safe."
By the time the threat was over, schools would allow students out at their normal dismissal time. Still, as a precaution, there was an elevated police presence at all campuses as students left their schools.
All after school programs were also cancelled, except for normal elementary after school care, under the orders of the Broward Schools superintendent. "The superintendent has taken the initiative to cancel all after school activities, including athletic facilities and also all adult and vocational programs," Notter explained.
Now state, local and federal officials are all involved in tracking down the woman who called in to the station and whoever sent the email to that station.
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