A reported explosion at Northeastern University last month was a hoax, and the employee who said he was injured has been arrested, according to authorities and FBI statements in court documents.
The FBI’s Boston office announced an arrest in a tweet Tuesday morning, but court documents reviewed by NBC News show the package blast reported Sept. 13 at Holmes Hall never happened.
US attorney Rachael Rollins said at a news conference later Tuesday that the suspect, Jason Duhaime, “would have made up the story.”
Duhaime was arrested Tuesday near his home in San Antonio, Texas. According to the FBI, he has been charged with falsely conveying a bomb threat and lying to federal agents.
Rollins said Duhaime called 911 around 7pm and told the operator that he was injured by very sharp objects thrown from a plastic pelican shell. Duhaime, the school’s new technology manager at the time and director of the immersive media lab, reportedly said the case contained a “violent note” that threatened the lab.
The school declined to say how long Duhaime was employed.
Duhaime told police he had collected several packages from the postal area, including two pelican attacks, Rollins told reporters.
“Very sharp objects flew out” and injured his arms after Duhaime said he opened one of the packages he had placed in a lab storage cabinet, Rollins said.
Law enforcement officers who arrived at the scene reviewed the pelican case and “found it to be empty and undamaged,” Rollins said.
“Neither that pelican case, nor the threatening letter that Mr. Duhaime is said to be in the case, showed any indication that he had been exposed to a powerful or explosive discharge of any kind or magnitude,” she explained. “And the cupboard in which Mr. Duhaime opened the suitcase looked normal and undisturbed.”
When questioned by investigators, Duhaime allegedly denied making up his story.
The investigation found a “word for word” copy of the alleged threatening letter on a computer that had been seized from Duhaime’s computer. The letter was created hours before he called 911, according to Rollins.
The incident caused Northeastern to evacuate much of the Boston campus and prompted warnings from other schools in the area for people to exercise caution and report suspicious packages. Harvard University said it would increase police patrols on campus in response to the blast.
Rollins said Duhaime’s alleged hoax was “troubling to say the least” and caused panic throughout the community.
Authorities don’t know a motive yet, but Joseph Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of FBI Boston, said Duhaime most likely “wanted to be the victim, but instead victimized his entire community by spreading fear on Massachusetts college campuses.” and beyond’.