Harvard University police officers raided the Leverett House, an undergraduate suite, in response to a false 911 call, and held four Black students at gunpoint, reports The Harvard Crimson.
Jarah K. Cotton, Jazmin N. Dunlap, David G. Madzivanyika and Alexandra C. René were awakened from their sleep around 4 a.m. to the sound of police banging on their doors. The officers believed that a potential suspect was armed and dangerous in the building.
In an issued statement, Steven G. Catalano, a spokesperson for the Harvard University Police Departmen (HUPD), said the authorities were dispatched because of a “threatening violence against occupants.”
“The officers searched the Leverett House suite with “negative results for an individual with a firearm or any persons acting in a suspicious manner,” Catalano said.
Cotton shared that the HUPD officers were dressed in riot gear and aimed their assault rifles at her and her Black suitemates.
“All I can recall having in my mind is ‘I haven’t done anything,’” Cotton said. “I really had no clue why they were raiding our suite.”
“It was a very crazy experience—and terrifying,” she added
Cotton said an officer explained to her that their authorities received a call that there was an active threat in the building.
The incident has been described as “swatting” which is when an individual makes a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to cause law enforcement to a particular address.
In an email sent to the Crimson on Monday, Cotton described the anxiety that the Black students experienced following the incident.
“We were all extremely scared, particularly because my roommates and I are Black students who have been bombarded our whole lives with stories and images portraying how situations such as this had ended up terribly,” she wrote. “We felt our lives were in danger. We are traumatized.”
In the aftermath of the incident, Faculty Deans Daniel G. Deschler and Eileen E. Reynolds along with Leverett House Interim Resident Dean John Nowak emailed the student body that the threat was false and that everything was under control.
“We all process activities like this morning’s differently,” the deans’ email read. “Please check in with yourself and on each other and let us know if you have any concerns for yourself or your fellow community members.”
Cotton also expressed her disappointment that the incident didn’t warrant a response from the University president and the entire administration.
The FBI is currently working with HUPD to further investigate the incident.