BOSTON (CBS) – There was a heavy police presence Friday morning at Boston University after someone falsely claimed they had guns and explosives on campus.
Boston Police say they were called just before 9 a.m. for a report of a threat at 770 and 771 Commonwealth Ave., where the student union and Mugar Memorial Library are located.
Officers swept the buildings, but did not find anything.
The caller claimed to have guns and said Room 420 in the library was booby trapped, but it’s just open stacks on the fourth floor–the rooms are not numbered, and that number is often used as slang for marijuana.
WBZ-TV’s Anna Meiler reports
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said the phone call to Boston University Police lasted about 10 minutes and was not a robocall.
“It was a phone call. We were on the line with the individual, so we treated it very much like it was the real deal,” said Evans.
“I apologize for the people who might have been delayed, the students, but it was so detailed that we had to take it serious.”
A Boston University spokesman said police are investigating the possibility that the hoax call may have come from overseas. A second call revealed more.
“A short time later there was another call that he had just shot a hostage inside that room,” said Boston Police Commissioner Williams Evans.
It sent heavily armed police swarming the BU campus and shutting down Commonwealth Avenue for a time, and students were put on alert about an emergency situation.
“We were freaking out, no one was leaving the classroom because everyone was afraid to go outside,” said student Savannah Reitzel.
Police say the call from a “man with an accent” was blocked, but they say he answered questions from a BU police dispatcher for ten minutes leading them to believe it was an active shooter scenario unfolding.
The building was evacuated, some classes were cancelled, and student Sarah Wu was ordered to shelter in place nearby.
“I was very nervous, I had no clue what was going on. It’s the first time I’ve ever been through anything like this,” said Wu.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh joined WBZ-TV in studio and said that even though it appears the incident was a hoax, police need to take it seriously.
“You have to treat every single threat as if it’s a real threat. We can’t take anything for granted,” said Walsh. “If there’s one potential call that comes in that we don’t respond to, that could be the call where a problem could have happened.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on BU Hoax Call
Walsh said hoax threats are becoming more common across the country, forcing police to respond.
“Unfortunately, this is becoming the new norm,” said Walsh. “I think even though this is a hoax, you have to take it seriously. You just never know.”
Massachusetts State Police had closed Comm. Ave. at the BU Bridge, but traffic is flowing again in the area.
Police said they completed an active shooter training over the summer at that helped them be prepared for Friday’s evacuation. BU Today reported in August about the training completed by Boston University Police and Brookline Police.
Boston University acting police chief Scott Pare said the training took place just last month in the same building.
“It worked out unfortunately perfectly for us,” he said.
As police try to trace the call, BU students weren’t taking the hoax lightly.
“It puts a lot of stress on students, especially since it’s a hoax it’s terrible,” said student Margo Ghertner.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Kim Tunnicliffe reports