The Boston College Police Department responded to a hoax phone call on Saturday night that claimed an individual in 66 Commonwealth Ave. possessed a gun and intended to harm himself, according to Associate Vice President for University Communications Jack Dunn.
“The call was determined to be a hoax based on a cross check of the name and number provided by the caller to the operator,” Dunn said. “The call is believed to have originated in California by an individual with no connection to BC.”
Chris Smails, a current resident of 66 Commonwealth Ave. and MCAS ’24, said he realized the fire alarms—which he said sounded close to midnight—were not part of a routine drill when he saw police officers directing students outside.
“Pretty much as soon as I walk out of my dorm, I see one police officer already in the hallway, like by the stairwell,” Smails said. “I’m like, ‘Okay, that’s not something I usually see. I hope everybody’s okay.’”
As he was leaving the building, Smails said he saw several more officers—including members of the Boston Police Department—by the entrance, about 10 police cars parked on Commonwealth Ave., and about 20 other students waiting outside.
“From what I picked up from talking with people, I guess they had a canine unit searching—somebody saw a dog,” he said.
Smails said the officers gathered students on the grass and explained what was happening.
“What he explained to us was that they got a call from a crisis center … informing them that there is a resident of 66 who had a gun who was suicidal and was planning on killing himself and also maybe other students,” Smails said.
Though Smails said students expressed concern during the incident that they might be harmed, Dunn said the hoax phone call did not discuss a threat to harm students.
According to Smails, one officer said the police were looking for a male and asked female students to step aside so they could pat down the male students.
“As soon as people heard, a lot of them … [were] obviously pretty shaken up about it,” Smails said. “There wasn’t a lot of feeling [expressed]—it was almost like 100 percent compliance. It was scary for sure.”
Smails said they waited outside for about 30 minutes before the officers said the building was clear and allowed students back inside.
“[It was] definitely a novel experience and nerve-wracking in the sense that there was somebody possibly in the dorm that was a danger to other people,” Smails said.
The validity of the call came into question for Smails when the officers said “the information had stopped coming.”
“Almost like towards the beginning they said the information had stopped coming in,” Smails said. “I don’t know what exactly that meant, but it seemed as though they weren’t sure how credible it was.”
According to Dunn, BCPD reported that the call was a “swatting” issue—a prank call to emergency services that attempts to cause a large number of armed police officers to be dispatched to a specific location.
“Individuals who engage in these swatting incidents are attempting to divert police and other public safety officials from their duties,” Dunn said. “We have no intention of giving these individuals the attention they seek.”
Smails said he does not understand what a person could gain from faking a call like this.
“Given that BPD came out, BCPD came out, like the entire cavalry came out to make sure this situation was under control, I can see how that would be immensely frustrating to other people and a massive waste of time and resources and … I’m sure this was a much more traumatizing experience to others in 66,” Smails said.