Friday morning University of Miami students awoke to a barrage of text messages from the University of Miami Police Department (UMPD).
“Safety hazard near Gables campus,” one message read in all capital letters.
The safety hazard was a hostage situation at the Bank of America branch closest to UM’s campus. While students, staff and faculty were headed to class and work, police surrounded the bank located less than a mile from campus.
UMPD warned students through a series of emails, phone calls and text message alerts.
“Avoid 1540 South Dixie Hwy. Hostage Situation at Bank of America,” read one text. “Think, STAY.”
The message referred to UMPD’s new safety policy, a mnemonic device that stands for “secure your area, take cover, advise and you must take measures to protect your safety.”
According to local and national news sources, Diego Uscamayta, 25, a teller at the bank, was abducted from his home in Kendall by two men who broke in at about 1 a.m. Friday. The men strapped what police later determined was not a bomb to his chest, and at about 8 a.m. drove him to the bank.
“They sent him inside and stayed outside,” Coral Gables Police Chief Richard Naue said to The Miami Herald. “They said, ‘We have a remote triggering device. We want you to get as much money as you possibly can and bring it out to us.'”
Although it wasn’t open for business yet, the branch manager was inside the bank. She opened the vault and gave Uscamayta more than $100,000 in cash. The red Mustang the two men used to escape in belonged to Uscamayta and was found Saturday at an apartment complex near the bank.
“We’re asking people to stay away from this area until we have this device detonated and in control,” Sgt. Janette Frevola, a Coral Gables police spokeswoman, told The Miami Herald.
Though two elementary schools in the area, Riviera Day School, 6800 Nervia St., a private school in Coral Gables, and Sunset Elementary School, 5120 SW 72nd St. in South Miami, were placed on lockdown, operations at UM continued as usual during the incident.
UMPD issued an all clear at approximately 2:51 p.m., announcing that all roads are now open, but the area surrounding the Bank of America will remain closed for further police investigation.