Police found several "simplistic" explosive devices on the grounds of Norman J. Levy Lakeside School in Merrick on Friday but don't believe they were related to the school, Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.
Most of them had already exploded in a field about 200 yards from the elementary school, he said, but they did not cause any damage and no one was hurt.
Ryder showed pictures at a news conference Friday of an unexploded device that police found. The pictures showed a plastic water bottle — Ryder said a person could mix chemicals in it, shake it and throw it into a crowd, where it would explode. “It wouldn’t hurt you. It would put a good scare into you, and fear in a crowd causing panic and people to run and hurt each other,” he said.
But the unexploded bottle, which Ryder said looks like a “soda bomb,” had BBs in it, he said. "Those BBs would become projectiles,” he said.
Police were called to the school on Babylon Road at 9:30 a.m. and found that device. Friday was a half-day for students and the last day of school before summer break.
Ryder said a parent who was bringing a child to school saw something suspicious and called 911 after dropping off the child.
"We don't believe it has anything to do with the school," Ryder said. Still, when the devices were discovered, the school was placed on lockdown.
Police are planning to interview neighbors for more information and to determine whether they heard any explosions the day before, Ryder said. While the investigation is ongoing, police “have no idea who the subject is,” the commissioner said.
County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who also was at the news conference, said police have increased security at locations that “we think might be potential targets for a lone wolf or some kind of organized terror group.”
The increased security comes following mass shootings in Buffalo and at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, last month.
“The bottom line is we’re being proactive,” Blakeman said, adding that no motive had been established in this case. “We are not taking anything for granted.”
In a letter to the Merrick school community, Superintendent Dominick Palma said police had determined the school site was safe and had checked the Birch and Chatterton school campuses as well.
"We would also like to thank the vigilance of our school community and the parent who called police to report the suspicious item," Palma wrote.
— John Asbury