FBI, Secret Service join investigation into MIT gunman hoax

Federal investigators will help Cambridge and MIT Police determine who was behind the false report of a man with a rifle on campus Saturday. (afagen/Flickr)
Federal investigators will help Cambridge and MIT Police determine who was behind the false report of a man with a rifle on campus Saturday. (afagen/Flickr)

Federal investigators will help Cambridge and MIT Police determine who was behind the false report of a man with a rifle on campus Saturday.

Steven Ricciardi, director of the Secret Service’s Boston field office, told the Boston Globe that the agency’s electronic crimes task force is getting involved because the hoax “does have a component to it that’s associated to the Internet.” The FBI will also take part in the probe.

The threat was made at 7:28 a.m. through an electronic message. Authorities have not said who received it, or exactly how the message was sent. The warning was specific, according to MIT’s student newspaper, the Tech.

“Police radio traffic suggested that the gunman had a long rifle and body armor, was hiding in the bathroom and that he was going after MIT President L. Rafael Reif and school staff in retaliation for the death of Aaron Swartz,” the Tech reported.

Swartz was the Internet activist and co-founder of Reddit who committed suicide in January. He faced federal charges for allegedly hacking into MIT’s network and stealing millions documents. His family blames the school and the US Attorney’s Office in Boston for his death.

Cambridge police arrived on campus two minutes after getting the threat, according to a statement posted on its website Saturday.

“An incident command was established and a coordinated room-by-room search was conducted,” the CPD said. “No armed suspects were found in the building or on campus, and police believe that the event, as reported, did not occur.”

One aspect of the investigation will be how long it took MIT to notify students and staff about the threat. The school didn’t send out an alert until more than an hour later.

“The MIT community was sent a precautionary text message at 8:52 a.m. asking them to remain indoors and shelter in place,” the MIT New Office said Saturday.

In comparison, Cambridge Police tweeted about the incident less than ten minutes after getting the call.

“At the conclusion of the ongoing investigation, MIT Police and other parts of the MIT administration will, as part of standard operating procedure, conduct an after-action review of MIT’s police and communications actions during this event,” the News Office said.

Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBos


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