Four Black Harvard University students were held at gunpoint by police wearing riot gear holding assault rifles earlier this week. The officers reportedly receive a prank call regarding a violent threat present in their dormitories.
The four students, Jarah K. Cotton, Jazmin N. Dunlap, David G. Madzivanyika, and Alexandra C. René, were awakened at 4 a.m. on Monday morning (April 3) to five Harvard police officers banging on their suite door. The Harvard Crimson reported that they were ordered to open the door, raise their hands, exit their rooms, and enter another suite while the assault rifles were pointed in their faces. Notably, law enforcement attempted to call two of the students before approaching their doors, but were not able to speak with them because they were sleeping.
Harvard University Police Department spokesperson Steven G. Catalano stated, via The Harvard Crimson, that the officers searched the Leverett House suite and did not find any weapons nor people acting suspiciously. Ultimately, they discovered that the initial phone call was a false report, which was the latest in a string of hoax calls called “swatting” that have been happening throughout the country. They began happening more often following the tragic Nashville school shooting in late March.
Harvard University Police Department Chief Victor Clay offered a statement on Thursday (April 6) regarding the incident. “We acknowledge that the presence of police officers in the early morning hours in one of the College’s residential Houses can, and in this case did, raise fears and anxiety,” Clay said via the official Harvard College publication. “Entering a residential House is not something that HUPD does without cause or takes lightly. The steps taken by HUPD are aligned with law enforcement protocols, which HUPD officers are trained on.”
He went on to share more details about the situation, stating that the caller identified as a male who had been kicked out of Harvard that semester and made three different calls to HUPD. Said male told the police that he was armed, holding a woman hostage, and intended to “fatally injure” her. He also revealed that he was located in the Leverett House and “indicated a strong familiarity with Leverett House and how its rooms are commonly referenced by Harvard community members.”
Clay clarified that, upon the HUPD announcing their presence, they entered the room without a key in order to eliminate any potential threat. Now that they are aware this was nothing more than “swatting,” HUPD is conducting an ongoing investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.