Suspicious item found near Jacksonville synagogues causes evacuations

Action News Jax at 10:00 PM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A suspicious item found near two Jacksonville synagogues caused evacuations and shut down a major roadway for hours Saturday.

An off-duty officer found the suspicious item near Etz Chaim and the Jacksonville Jewish Center and called Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

North- and southbound lanes of San Jose Boulevard at Haley Road were shut down and businesses in the area were evacuated.

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It happened as some Jewish families were walking to the synagogues, a Sabbath tradition on Saturdays.

“People were saying, 'Go back, go back. The road's closed off. There’s an unidentified object between the two synagogues,'” Caroline Lee said.

The Etz Chaim member said after the attack in Pittsburgh, she feared the worst.

“God forbid it was a bomb, you know? Are we being targeted as a Jewish community? Because it’s right between the two synagogues,” she said.

The synagogue had also received a threat in the form of a letter in December.

Lee was among the families who stood on the sidewalk, waiting for information about what was happening and when they could join the other members at the synagogue.

Two hours later, JSO’s bomb squad determined the item was not a safety concern.

“We are more than grateful,” Lee said. “A little inconvenient, you know, but the opposite, the alternative would be quite horrendous.”

Action News Jax asked JSO what the item was that caused alarm, and a lieutenant described it as a “large object.”

The president of Etz Chaim said it was an abandoned safe.