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Northeastern University explosion investigated as a hoax as campus returns to normal


Details of the package-bomb case at Northeastern University aren’t adding up, according to law enforcement officials who say they are now investigating it as a hoax.

Investigators said they had identified inconsistencies in the story of the 45-year-old employee who told them a hard-plastic-shelled case he had received exploded and injured his hand, one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press.

The hand injuries were also inconsistent with those caused by explosions, the official said.

The package was supposedly delivered to Holmes Hall at around 7 p.m. Tuesday. Holmes houses the university’s Immersive Media Labs, which according to its website includes technologies for design, development, and exploration of virtual worlds.

The package that the staffer said exploded and sent him to the hospital was a “Pelican-style” hard-plastic-shelled case — so-named for the company that specializes in cases that protect sensitive equipment.

A law enforcement official said the package also contained a rambling note that railed against virtual reality and also referenced Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. No explosive materials were found and they do not believe the package was sent through the U.S. Postal Service, the official said.

An FBI Boston spokeswoman declined to comment to the Herald Wednesday about the case, but described it as “active and fluid.”

The event, hoax or not, caused Northeastern to shut down classes and activities for the remainder of the evening. By the next day, the university had resumed business as normal.

“Events such as the incident that took place on our Boston campus last night can create or heighten anxiety for many of us,” a Wednesday university statement read. “We would like to underscore what was communicated to our community last night: Multiple law enforcement agencies have determined that the campus is safe and secure.”

To several students passing by the busy campus corner of Forsyth Street and Huntington Avenue around midday Wednesday, the previous night’s incident hardly made a splash.

Several students the Herald spoke with said they didn’t even know about it. Others weren’t even on campus at the time.

One friendly student reported that he didn’t learn about it until much later because he was a soccer player and he and his Huskies were busy besting the Harvard Crimson 3-2 on Parson’s Field at the time.

A law student said her classes typically end at 4:30 p.m. and she was off campus, but said that something like this was “bound to happen; people are crazy” but that she is “not too concerned … Maybe I should be?”

An arts student, who also declined to give her name, did say that what happened “was crazy; I’ve never heard anything that crazy happening on campus.”

Jonathan Friedman, a second-year brand management and music major, had heard a lot of things about the incident. While he and other students he had talked with, he said, may be sympathetic to the anti-capitalist message the note apparently had, the violence “is in no way endorsed by the student body.”

He also said Northeastern could have moved faster to alert students and staff to what had gone down in Holmes Hall, and that a “couple hour” gap between the event and the alert wasn’t very comforting.

While Friedman said he wasn’t scared it would happen again, his friend Molly Magri, also a second-year brand management student, said she was left a little worried.

But as classes resumed, it seemed like campus life was back to normal as well.

Students walked the campus in conversation and laughter, and Centennial Common was awash with students taking in the fine weather and doing their homework.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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