BOCA RATON, FLA. (WSVN) - A commencement ceremony at Florida Atlantic University was canceled after a threatening note was found in a bathroom.
Officials said something written on a sticky note was found inside a women’s restroom on a mirror prior to the third ceremony of the day, and police deemed it a credible threat, prompting evacuations just before 5 p.m.
“We were just going into the auditorium. They were rushing us all in, the start before the ceremony, and all of a sudden, ‘We need you to exit, we need you to evacuate. It’s an emergency. Go,'” said Kellen Love.
Love said he flew in from Los Angeles to watch his sister graduate with a degree in social sciences.
“You definitely have that moment of, ‘What is going on?’ And you kind of feel the tension coming from the people that are working,” said Love.
Students anticipating their graduation were left confused as to what was going on.
“All of a sudden you can see everybody started getting a little hesitant,” said graduate Pablo Gastaldi. “Everybody started checking their cell phones, getting calls from their parents who were in the auditorium.”
Boca Raton Police said the handwritten note was discovered by a staff member inside a restroom at the College of Business Complex.
The note, police said, made a threat specifically to the commencement ceremony that was set to begin at 5 p.m.
“Based on the specifics of the note, we made sure we did our thorough investigation of it, and we determined that it was specific and credible,” said FAU Police Chief Sean Brammer. “It was a threat specific towards our graduation, and at that point in time, we made the decision to go ahead and cancel our graduation.”
Brammer did not reveal the contents of the note, as the specifics might compromise the investigation, he said.
The event held at the Carole and Barry Kaye Performing Arts Auditorium was the last of three ceremonies scheduled Tuesday.
“I think it’s really mean to do that on the day of someone’s graduation,” said graduate Dante Vallejos. “It’s something really special, and it’s meaningful.”
Families flying in from different parts of the country were also left upset.
The family of Emilio Altamirano flew in from Maryland to watch him receive his degree.
“My grandparents are immigrants, so my grandparents really wanted to see me walk across the stage ’cause not that many people are blessed to do that,” Altamirano said.
The ceremony was for students graduating from the College of Arts and Letters, College of Nursing, College of Medicine and College of Science.
“It’s a kind of sad state of affairs that people just can’t have a moment to celebrate with their family and friends and celebrate their own hard work,” Love said.
Authorities are reviewing surveillance footage as part of their ongoing investigation.
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