JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville police on Saturday morning found a mannequin dressed in a law enforcement uniform hanging from an overpass, authorities said.
About 6:20 a.m., according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, police were called to a potential suicide by hanging on the Interstate 95 overpass near Zoo Parkway. Police said they then discovered it was actually a mannequin dressed in an New York Police Department uniform with a pig mask.
“About 6 a.m., we was coming on 95, and first, I thought it was a body and my heart completely dropped,” said Jacksonville resident Lamont Ross, who is a medical transportation driver, along with his wife. “Immediately we turned around.”
Kamri Merriweather also saw the mannequin on her way home from working a 12-hour shift.
“My entire heart dropped. It just sank. I was not sure what to do. I was nerve wrecked, scared and at the same time confused. I could not believe, out of my entire life, I would ever see anything like that,” Merriweather said.
Detectives said the mannequin will be processed for DNA.
“Our goal, at this point, is to identify persons of interest for the sake of, most importantly, the members of our community and for officer safety,” the Sheriff’s Office said. “We are thankful that this was not a real person.”
Sheriff Mike Williams later released the following statement on the incident:
“The incident that occurred this morning depicting the mock lynching of a mannequin dressed in what appeared to be the uniform of a law enforcement officer is extremely disturbing. Both the tactics and props used were a deliberate attempt to exasperate an anti-police sentiment and drive a divide in our community.
“This incident was carried out by people wanting to undermine our dedicated efforts to keep our city safe. Too many good citizens are working with us to keep our community safe through active partnerships, and frank conversations about the challenges we all face. This type of act will not be tolerated by our agency or our community, and we will work together to hold those responsible accountable.”
Steve Zona, president of the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police, also posted a statement on Facebook:
“The hate displayed in that picture is not representative of our community.
“It is representative of someone with a small mind and whose only goal is to cause division.
“We are thankful for the support we have here in Jacksonville and we will not allow the actions of one person, or a few, to effect our commitment to serve.”
Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted:
“We are working to come together & invoke change & growth in our community. We won’t let an appalling & disturbing act like this derail our progress. I won’t tolerate actions like this so blatantly meant to intimidate our police nor will I stand for it against any citizen.”
Jacksonville City Council member Reggie Gaffney told News4Jax:
“It was unfortunate to hear about this happening. It is important for the community and the JSO to refocus on the importance of neighborhood relationships and community policing. We need to make this a priority.”
And City Council member Ju’Coby Pittman said:
“This behavior and intentional visual action is unacceptable. I am very disturbed. While our community is going through unrest and hurt, together, we are seeking peace not disruption. It is apparent, that whoever is responsible for this divisive act, want to continue the pain of the open wounds from the past. In the last 3 weeks our community has had enough. The voices and protesters want change, NOW! We don’t to be reminded of injustice of the past. The person or persons, should be ashamed and punished.”
Anyone who has any information about who may be responsible is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 904-630-0500 or email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS (8477).