The Tufts University Police Department at approximately 3:50 p.m. issued an e-mail security alert about a man carrying a handgun on Professors Row. The alert, however, turned out to be a false alarm, TUPD said in a follow-up e-mail to the community.
Immediately after TUPD sent the first security alert about the 2:35 p.m. sighting, a man matching the physical description in the report called TUPD to say that he had been walking down Professors Row with a ratchet wrench at that time.
After meeting the caller, TUPD determined that he matched the description in the first report and confirmed that the ratchet wrench had been mistaken for a revolver, according to the second e-mail sent approximately an hour later.
“The police were able to confirm certain details with him … and that it was all completely innocent behavior,” Director of Public Relations Kim Thurler said.
The person who made the original report to TUPD said there was a clicking sound that “might be the sound of a cylinder in a revolver,” Thurler said. She explained that the man who had been carrying the ratchet wrench had been twirling it, making a similar sound.
After TUPD received the initial report, it conducted a search of the area along with both the Medford and Somerville Police Departments. The search was negative, according to the first e-mail.
Thurler said that TUPD and Tufts administrators judged that an e-mail alert, rather than a message from the Tufts Emergency Alert System — which notifies students about emergencies via text and voice messages — was the best response to the initial report.
“Tufts University Police, working with senior leadership at the university, considered how best to address this situation,” Thurler said in an e-mail to the Daily. “They concluded that in this case, an e-mailed safety alert was the appropriate channel, since Tufts had no evidence of any immediate threat to the community and no indication that anyone was planning any violent act.”
Both the Medford and Somerville Police Departments were notified of the false alarm. “It’s basically a non-event,” Somerville Police Department Deputy Chief Paul Upton said.
Upton said false reports of firearm sightings are fairly common. “We get these calls a lot more often than not,” he said.
The Medford Police Department had no further information about the report. Calls to TUPD were not immediately returned.