Investigators are working to determine how what seemed to be a child's art project turned into a suspicious-package scare at Congregation Beth Tikvah in Worthington last week.
Units from multiple central Ohio jurisdictions responded to Beth Tikvah the morning of March 9 when a woman reported a suspicious package.
After more than two hours, police and fire personnel determined the item likely was an oddly shaped "art project" by a child at the congregation's day care.
But hours later, Worthington investigators changed course and began working to determine whether the "art" was an intentional hoax. Security camera footage and other evidence are being assessed, and the case still was considered an open investigation as of Tuesday, March 14.
Worthington police Sgt. James Moran said Beth Tikvah day care children were evacuated quickly after the call, and although no danger was present, he appreciated the way the departments worked together and that evacuation and security processes worked well.
"In the current climate, you can't take that stuff lightly," he said. "If nothing else, it was a good training scenario for us."
About 9 a.m., Worthington police officers responded to a call from a woman involved with the day care. She told police a suspicious item was found on a desk in the foyer of the synagogue at 6121 Olentangy River Road.
According to Moran, Worthington officers were the first to respond to the call, but the suspicious-package case quickly fell under the jurisdiction of fire personnel.
Soon, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Columbus divisions of fire and police and Worthington Division of Fire units had converged at Beth Tikvah.
Moran said the department wasn't taking any risks in the situation, leading them to involve multiple agencies.
"Based on the way it looked, we thought it would be best to call Columbus," he said.
Canine units from the Columbus Division of Fire, the State Highway Patrol and the Ohio State University swept the area, and by 11 a.m., a bomb squad from Columbus had used a remote-controlled robot to scan the box, assuring that it posed no threat.
Moran wasn't sure what to call the object, which he described as 4 inches tall and 4 inches wide and wrapped in masking tape, but he said officers initially believed the item was not intended to look like anything dangerous.
"It was something that a 2- or 3-year-old would probably think looked like artwork," he said.
Despite that initial ruling, Worthington officers still are investigating and have not released a photo of the item.
The incident comes on the heels of reports of racist graffiti, vandalism and bomb threats at other synagogues.
Beth Tikvah executive director Debbie Vinocur said she wouldn't be at liberty to discuss the incident or the broader topic.
"The goal is for everybody to be comfortable and safe," she said. "I think that's where everybody is in every nonprofit organization."