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Emergency Call Brings Police to Campus

Ammunition clip reported in GRS; no suspect or weapons found


Police entering the Tsai Performance Center building, 685 Commonwealth Ave., Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Kimberly Cornuelle

Police converged on Boston University’s Charles River Campus yesterday afternoon after a BU student called the Boston University Police to report that he had seen a person carrying an ammunition clip and a bullet in the stairwell of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, at 705 Commonwealth Ave.

According to Boston University Police Chief Thomas Robbins, the suspect was described as a white male, approximately 22 years old, with short brown hair and wearing a heavy green coat with a fur collar. “The caller did not see a gun,” Robbins says.

Dispatchers received the call at noon, and BUPD officers responded and were on the scene in less than a minute. Officers from the Boston Police Department arrived shortly after to help conduct a sweep of 705 Comm Ave and adjacent buildings.

Police did not evacuate the building, Robbins says, “because there were enough officers on site to secure the area.” After classes were dismissed at the normal time, officers conducted an additional search of the building and the immediate vicinity. No suspects or weapons were found in the building.

Boston University sent out a message via its emergency alert system warning students, staff, and faculty members of police activity at 705 Comm Ave. The message instructed everyone to stay clear of the area until further notice.

“We didn’t want to make people unnecessarily nervous,” says Peter Fiedler, vice president for administrative services, “but we also felt that it was important to let the campus know what was going on.”

“We were very pleased with the response of the BUPD and the Boston Police Department,” he says. “We’re grateful that no one was hurt and that it caused no major disruptions on campus.”

The incident was the first time the University has used BU Alert in an emergency situation, and Fiedler says he feels the system was used efficiently. “People received the alerts within four minutes.”

Shortly after the emergency alert was sent out, Boston police questioned a man fitting the suspect’s description on Commonwealth Avenue outside Agganis Arena. That man was released when police determined that he was not the person they were looking for.

The commotion drew curious onlookers to the scene. “I was walking back from class when I heard the sirens and saw the SWAT team,” says Edward Abramson (CAS’09). “And then I got the emergency alert, so naturally I wanted to check it out.”

“I was nervous because my apartment is right across the street from here,” Tyler Brewer (COM’11) says. “And I just wanted to get home.”

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.


48 Comments on Emergency Call Brings Police to Campus

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:06 am


    Thank you to the person who called this in. Whether this was a real threat or not, it is good to know people are alert and ready to call in suspicious activity when they see it. We may never know if his/her action saved lives. I hope they catch the guy…

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:06 am

    I like how the student got the alert and “naturally …wanted to check it out”. This tells me that perhaps the alert should tell us something OTHER than there’s an emergency and we should stay away. Curiosity killed the cat. I guess there’s only so much an automated system can handle.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:07 am

    didn’t evacuate cause there were enough officers around… Thats ridiculous. They didnt want to cause a panic and didnt believe the sincerity of the threat. You want me to believe that they believe theres a guy with a gun surrounded by lots of kids in class and they dont want to evacuate?

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:07 am

    How the hell does he get off “feeling the system was used efficiently”? All the message said was that there was “police activity”, it said absolutely nothing besides that. I had no idea whether there was any threat to me, and I was in the 705 building at the time that the message was sent. No police interacted with me and said “Hey, you should leave the area,” and I had two classes in that building that went on interrupted. Yeah, this article reeks of bullshit. If there really had been someone with a gun, chances are I would’ve been shot dead along with the bumbling pigs.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:07 am

    We were on the scene today questioning students, tv crew and police and some of your facts seem not entirely accurate..classes were not dismissed and most students reported not receiving any alert till at least 50 minutes after the incident was called in to police at noon.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:07 am

    I got the alert at 4:25, about 45 min after I read the article about it. I guess the alert isn’t working too well for everyone.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:08 am

    Aren’t there art classes in that building? Maybe it wasn’t real? Have you ever had a bullet thrown at you? If it said “kid with gun in 705. plz run,” wouldn’t that have been worse?

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:08 am

    False Sense of Security?

    I’m not really sure how confident the University can be in it’s “emergency alert system.” I mean this happened at noon and I didn’t receive a text message until 1 o’clock. I even walked into the CAS building around 12:30PM because I was late for my Italian class. Two BU officers saw me in the stairwell and just said “hello.” It was only after I received the text messaged that I realized why the officers were there at all.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:08 am

    My class in CAS today was not even interrupted as this incident occurred, that’s good, but the fact that we didn’t know the gravity of the situation or the fact that no one ever suggested that we might stop class and leave the building is not so good… Had I known that someone might be carrying a weapon around the building I don’t think I would have remained in class.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:09 am

    There were definitely still classes going on in the building. Classes were not dismissed.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:09 am

    bullets don’t kill people. guns kill people. if you think you see someone ruthlessly waving bullets around in a stairwell and this makes you call the police and send out a mass wave of paranoia, you’re probably a damn idiot. it was probably a stupid belt from hot topic or something.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:10 am

    I actually had class in the building at the time and was not evacuated. Who was?

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:10 am


    I didn’t receive the alert until 12:51…and the officers that walked into the building next to me at 12:00 didn’t give me a word of caution.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:10 am

    1) Wasn’t BU Alert used for the bomb threat in Kenmore? 2) Thanks to the caller! 3) I’m a transfer, and my old school’s protocol would put us in lockdown if a credible threat was received that involved a firearm. I would think that would work here at BU because there wouldn’t be a mass egress and suspects could be immediately identified if they were to act on their plans. However, I don’t think anybody has any idea how to signal a lockdown or what to do if one were initiated…

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:11 am

    Please note that it says classes were dismissed **at the normal time,** not that they were released because of the incident.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:11 am

    while i appreciate the many warnings that i received to avoid the area, i have to agree with the second commenter above. i was in my room when i got the alert, but was so curious what the situation was about because no exact details were given. i had an impulse to go check it out, but i didn’t. also, why wouldn’t the place be evacuated?!

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:11 am

    hope these comments are read so that our school can fix this faulty system. at the very least, BU could have acknowledged the shortcomings in an article such as this. whether this was a real security threat or not, one thing that came out of it is that now we know how much the alert system sucks. the police need a good kick in the ass too.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:12 am


    I am currently out of town and the alert system should be applauded for its speedy performance. I read the alert in email and called back to my office just in time to share in the general confusion with my colleagues who had also just received the alert. It is probably a good idea to keep the alert concise and speedy, but perhaps fuller explanation of the nature of the situation could be offered on the BU website, either on the Home Page or BU Today. I also checked out WBUR’s streaming internet broadcast but no breaking news reports. This was all within the first half-hour or so.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:12 am


    Don’t recall actually saying that I heard sirens… It was the police presence that drew me there.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:12 am

    "naturally... wanted to check it out"

    I had also mentioned that if more information was given, say that bullets and a suspicious individual were involved, I would have been less inclined to go investigating. It was upsetting to find that the journalist lady on the scene had much more information on what was going on than we were given by the school.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:13 am

    BU Alert

    I didn’t get the text until after 1. That makes me feel safe.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:13 am


    It is ridculous that they didn’t let us know the severity of the situation, even if all they saw was bullets that is enough to make me want to leave the building, and having enough officers on scene only means that they could stop this person after a few people had been shot, not necessarily before, and i was in class in CAS at the time which makes me pissed

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:13 am

    police response

    I am a retired police officer from n.j. and my grandaughter is attending B.u. I want to thank the police dept. for there quick response and through search for the possible person who caused this disturbance.it helps me sleep a little better knowing the police are doing a fine job and just wanted to extend my thanks to everyone involved Thanks again to all personel that responded and dispatchers included Rich Scudder .

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:14 am

    bu emergency

    I was teaching in the building and I had no idea of what was going on . Won’t you think that if a killer was going around he would have been free to enter any classroom and start shooting at his pleasure? The Swat team was standing outside with a bunch of other officers. I did not see any other police inside the building, nobody was allowed to enter 705 Comm. Av while there were hundreds and hundreds of people inside.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:14 am

    text messages not instantaneous

    Text messages are not instantaneous and there is no guarantee that they will even be delivered. Most cell companies will try to find your phone and send the text message to you as soon as it arrives, but if they don’t find your phone (e.g., it’s off or you’re in an area with poor reception, or the cell tower closest to your phone is already saturated), they usually just save it and try again later. When you send a text message, there is no requirement and no guarantee that it will ever reach the intended recipient! If you need a recent example that delivery is not instantaneous, think back to New Year’s Eve. Most people I know were getting Happy New Year’s messages showing up as late as 3, 4 or 5 AM, but the messages were all sent shortly at midnight or shortly thereafter. So just because you didn’t receive a text message about the incident until 45 minutes or an hour or more after it was supposed to have been sent (or maybe never received a text at all) doesn’t mean the message was sent late. It means you’re seeing the flaw in using text messages as a delivery vehicle for time-critical or urgent information.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:14 am

    Classes cancelled...

    Actually, classes were NOT dismissed, I know this because I, and the rest of the students in the entire building of CAS, were busy checking their text messages on their way to the next class, after which I attended another. (until 3) Nope, no dismissal, despite the potential safety to be had from said dismissal…

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:15 am

    I agree that the system caused paranoia and didn’t really seem to be effective since we had no idea what was going on. Police activity? What does that mean to us as students? I know I wouldn’t have felt safe if I received that alert and then had class in CAS at 1. “Stay clear of the area.” Does that mean to evacuate if you have class? Does it excuse absences from class at that time? Good try, but definitely not a success.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:15 am

    full of questions

    i’m curious as to if the suspect is a BU student (recent robberies haven’t been by BU students…), if they caught him, and why the gravity of the situation didn’t compel the BUPD to cancel class instead of requesting we “clear” the situation without formal evacuation. that doesn’t make any sense. also, was this guy just carrying around bullets and ammunition, or were they in something? did he mean to carry them in plain view? did i miss something in the article or what? anyway, glad someone called. people should call, always, in times of suspicion, no matter how stupid it sounds. i’m also glad to be alive. holy shit. but if they didn’t catch the guy, or the gun that he presumably has, i don’t feel completely safe.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:15 am

    BU student called the Boston University Police to report that he had seen a person carrying an ammunition clip and a bullet …. “The caller did not see a gun,” Robbins says. Did the caller see a gun or not …. this just calls for pranks

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:16 am

    sounds like the ugliest coat ever

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:16 am

    i think BU should have cameras in the hallways!

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:16 am


    “I hope they catch the guy…” If the magazine has a capacity not exceeding 10 rounds, no license is required to possess it, and calling it a weapon for the MGL 269-10j violation is going to be quite a reach. If they catch the guy, they might just find out there is no crime they can charge the person with.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:17 am

    I’m highly impressed with the way BU handled the situation. This incident has actually increased how safe I feel on campus. I would like to thank each and every person that contributed to the rapid response.

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:17 am

    a little paranoid, aren’t we? A Swat team because someone thought he saw ammunition? Why is everyone so afraid of guns?

  • kcornuelle on 02.05.2009 at 9:18 am

    bu incicent

    As a parent, I am still not satisfied and very concerend as a potential killer could be on the prowl. Whoever reported the incident first needs to be questioned and the story verifed whether the story is true or just a prank. Thanks.

  • Anonymous on 02.05.2009 at 10:03 am

    Teacher responsibility

    As a teacher who had the care of 17 students during this incident, I felt completely uninformed…I have the responsibility of taking care of these students while they’re in my classroom, and the University should recognize that teachers need more information than a belated text message.

  • Bullet on 02.05.2009 at 10:07 am


    The bottom line was if it was a real threat the response would not have protected anyone in enough time.

    Thankfully all the guy could do is throw the bullets.

  • Dean Virginia Sapiro on 02.05.2009 at 10:41 am

    Thank you

    As Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a resident of the building in which this alert took place, I would like to thank the BUPD and the BPD for the their response and I would like to thank the students, staff, and faculty in CAS for remaining calm and orderly. The police appeared quickly and in large numbers and swept the building multiple times while stationing people around the access areas to where the incidents allegedly took place. The building is a large one with multiple entrances. At the time of the incident the building was crowded with people. The police worked to calm the people present. We agreed not to evacuate the building on the grounds that filling the hallways even more with people scurrying about and anxious when the level of threat was dubious and we had a large police presence would be worse than leaving people behind the closed doors of classrooms and offices, including my own.

  • Uninformed Terrier on 02.05.2009 at 11:27 am

    Once again, BU leaves students uninformed

    Why is it that not ONE police officer could explain to me what was going on as I headed off from my afternoon class in CAS? What if there was a serious threat?

    “We’re still checking things out.”

    Gee, that really alerted me to the gravity of the situation. I found out from some camera guy from Channel seven what was going on.

    Oh and the alert system=another joke. I received my voicemails and texts after I was already in the building for discussion so by then it would have been too late.

    And,”There is police activity in the area. Avoid 705 Comm Ave” really wasn’t a big help.

    Also, my discussion TA had no idea what the commotion was outside so we proceeded with class. What if there was a threat? Is this how BU plans to handle things? Teachers AND students left in the dark?

    I understand not wanting to cause unecessary panic but yesterday was a joke. If 20 police officers bobbing around where i have to go to class let me in the building yet dont explain to me whats going on, how does that make sense? A simple “everything is okay, we re just responding to a call that was made concerning….,” would have sufficed.

    Last week same thing. Bunch of fire trucks and cop cars and ambulance along Cummington Street. Not one would tell you what was happening. I only go to school here and my parents only work their buts off to pay 50 grand, but I don’t have a right to know that a suspicious smoky smell was detected or a clip of bullets may have been found.

    BU made sure to have dogs sent into all the rooms in my dorm to sniff for bed bugs though to protect us from unsanitary conditions. Oh wait, that’s right, no one even told us about that either.

  • Anonymous on 02.05.2009 at 1:13 pm

    Uninformative/Ineffective Text Message

    I think the text message was extrememly uninformative, and ineffective. Yes someone just saw a clip and bullet, but what if the guy was about to insert that clip into a pistol and really create some chaos? I just think we should have been told there was a clip and bullet that was seen from a student rather than just, “there is police activity in the area”. Many people wanted to go check out the commotion when they heard there was “police activity”. I do not think as many people would want to go in search of what was happening if we were told there was a clip and bullet. And im not just saying this to get out of class, but there really should not have been classes during that part of the day. Someone really could have gotten hurt.

  • Anonymous on 02.05.2009 at 2:04 pm

    I agree with all of the comments made above about where the faults of the BU Alert system are, but also I was in a class at the time in FitRec and we were all trying to figure out where 705 Commonwealth was. People knew that Warren was 700 so we assumed that it was CAS but we were not sure. CAS has a few numbered addresses.

  • Anonymous on 02.05.2009 at 2:20 pm

    Fred says: "Relax"

    It is natural for people to be concerned about their own safety. However, for people to be incensed over not being personally warned to the potential ‘danger’ does not give enough credit to the fact that BU Police were doing as much as they could to control the situation. If someone walked into your classroom and began firing a weapon, it would be nearly impossible for authorities to locate and respond quickly if the hallways were already packed with fleeing students. Additionally, it is not productive to evacuate an entire building simply because someone may have introduced a firearm, for a couple of reasons: 1) It causes general panic, something which should be avoided if someone in the crowd happens to be wielding a gun; 2) It does not allow for a systematic search for the potential gunman — if someone is up to no good, a valid assumption is that that person is not in a classroom listening to a lecture and taking notes.

    Moral of my story: You are never going to be privy to all the information regarding your personal safety. In this case, it kept you out of harm’s way. Be thankful.

  • Anonymous on 02.05.2009 at 3:54 pm

    In defense of BUPD

    Lets not forget that in a true “active shooter” scenario, the last thing we all want is to have crowds of people evacuate in the hallways, providing the shooter a lot of easy targets. That is exactly what would have happened if BUPD had needlessly frightened occupants of the building. My only comment: in the future, it might be prudent for BUPD to tell building occupants to stay put until further notice and suggest that classroom doors be locked.

  • Anonymous on 02.05.2009 at 5:49 pm

    Lets not forget that the last thing you want to do in any type of potential “active shooter” scenario is anything that will send the building occupants out in to the hallways where they make easy targets for the shooter. And that is exactly what might have happened if building occupants had been unnecessarily frightened or if BUPD had called for a building evacuation.

    With regard to the content of the message: as you provide more detail, you run the risk of diluting the message. The message was clear and succinct: Stay away from the building. If people decided to ignore that message, they have no one else to blame but themselves. However, an additional line reading: “Building occupants should stay indoors and lock office or classroom doors” might have been good.

  • Anonymous on 02.06.2009 at 10:54 am

    Completely ineffective

    So, in the end, no one was apprehended? And, in the end, if this kid had wanted to start something dangerous, my class of 22 would have been sitting ducks because the message was essentially useless to those of us already in the building? And the 20+ police officers on the steps of the CAS (which I NOW know is 705 Comm) were just sending the kids right in even after the “stay clear” message was sent out?

    And here’s another – more important- question: what if this was his “drill”? What if he now knows exactly how BUPD will respond, exactly how the emergency message system will function (or not function), and exactly how many minutes he’ll have to hurt people?

    I’m sorry, but to see this incident being touted on the news as some great “success story” makes me angry. As a person, I do not feel safer. As a professor, I feel even more at a loss as to how I could protect my students. And if I were a parent, I would be terrified. Fully terrified.

  • Anonymous on 02.06.2009 at 4:04 pm

    any other school would have been on complete lockdown. the fact that BU not only didn’t cancel classes but ALLOWED PEOPLE IN THE BUILDING IS ATROCIOUS. this place sucks.

  • Anonymous on 02.06.2009 at 7:42 pm

    The safety of our children

    I was just informed by my son about the incident on campus and was appalled by the lack of direction given to the children. I just called the main phone number at BU to ask about the incident and was given a curt response that everything was taken care of. When I informed her that I am paying $50,000 for my son’s education and as a parent deserve to at least know that my son is safe, she then transferred me to the police who were a little better. We as parents are worried enough about our children but to have someone answering the phone in such a nonchalant manner makes me wonder about the safety of our children. We as parents are asking you to address this more seriously and also hire more knowledgeable and empathic employees to allay our concerns. I believe that we should receive a letter clearly defining the measures taken to make sure that this never happens again and that the system be further improved. I am grateful that the police were there but it appears from all the emails that even teachers and professors do not believe that this was a true success.

  • Anonymous on 02.08.2009 at 4:26 pm

    emergency alert system needs to be better

    I am a parent of a student who was in class at 705 Comm Ave when she received the BU alert. she said everyone in the class phones were beeping and the teacher didn’t even know what was going on.
    She received her first alert text at 12:50 PM. her next class was a 1:00 in the same building. she states that because a second alert message said classes were not cancelled, she walked to her next class! It certainly appears that faculity should have more information sent to them which would allow them to maybe lock down their classroom until word is sent that the “swipe” of the halls and building are completed. my daughter said no police came into either of her two classrooms. (She was in that building for classes from 11:00 – 2:00).
    lucky this time, but for such a large school, I guess I expected in the case of any type of emergency like this or worse, at least the teachers and student who are actually in the building where the problem is would be more informed and protected better!!
    I am grateful that both BU police and Boston Police were on the scene so quickly however, the students and teachers already inside the building had no idea they were “IN” such a situation!!

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