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Fort Lauderdale day care marred by fire, swastikas; owners allege hate crime

MIAMI -- Bishop Ivory Wilson on Sunday gazed on the shattered window of a building that serves as a church on the weekend and as a day care during the week.

There is the charred cafeteria where children would eat their snacks. A roof is now blackened with soot. It's just feet away from where students learn and play at the day care center.

"We worked hard to make this,” Wilson said. “The kids love us, the parents love us and we love them.”

Director Sandra Wilson said: “This just broke my heart, I couldn't stop crying -- couldn't stop crying.” 

They say they believe the fire was deliberately set, given the vandalism spray-painted on the walls: three large red swastikas. 

The owners of Little Leapers Childcare center in Fort Lauderdale say it’s a hate crime. In the last few weeks, employees say they also have been on the receiving end of a verbal threat. 

Three weeks before the fire, an anonymous someone phoned “and threatened us,” said Joyce Bryant, lead schoolteacher. The caller told staff to pack their bags and get out, Bryant said.

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When that call came in, the bishop and his wife contacted police. Sunday, instead of singing and praising in the auditorium, they're tallying up items that were stolen: Cameras, music equipment and flat-screen TVs used to live-stream sermons.

"Here we've got parents that won't know where to take their kids tomorrow morning," Wilson said.

They've been present in the community now for more than four years. They can’t understand why they’ve been attacked.

"We think everyone should be able to run their own business without anyone trying to run them out," Bryant said.

The bishop said vacating the building is the last thing they'll do, unwilling to let hatred win.

"We're not going to run,” he said. “Whatever game they're playing doesn't frighten me.”