A man who appeared to be unaffiliated with Harvard University died Saturday after fatally shooting himself on the top step of Memorial Church.
The Harvard University and Cambridge Police Departments, responding to a call about the shooting, discovered a body with a self-inflicted gunshot wound lying outside Memorial Church, according to a HUPD community advisory.
The incident took place around 10:50 a.m. on Saturday, according to CPD spokesman Daniel M. Riviello.
At that time, a tour group posing for a photo was standing on the steps of Memorial Church facing Tercentenary Theatre. When the man shot himself, the people on the steps took off running across the grass, according to Jorge A. Araya Amador ’14, who was walking by Emerson Hall at the time.
Just after 11 a.m., at least 10 officers had responded, marking off sections of the eastern half of Harvard Yard with police tape.
Cambridge Fire and Rescue pronounced the individual dead on the scene. HUPD and the Middlesex District Attorney’s office declined to provide the man’s name.
Katherine C. Mentzinger ’14, who saw the tourists from her friend’s window, said that the members of the tour group who had been near the scene of the incident were taken aside to be questioned by police. Many of the individuals were crying, she said.
“From my friend’s window, I could see him in a pool of blood,” Mentzinger said.
Thayer resident Nathaniel J. Miller ’14 said that people in his dorm were “shaken a little bit, but no one [was] too hysterical.”
The incident occurred during Yom Kippur services in Memorial Church. Service attendees who exited the church at around 12:30 p.m. said that they had not heard anything about the shooting that had occurred just a few feet outside.
Two police officers entered the church toward the beginning of services, but there was no sense of alarm or panic, said Lindsay K. Berger, a Harvard Kennedy School student who was in Memorial Church observing the holiday. Several attendees were informed of the news by Crimson reporters inquiring about the incident.
College administrators—including Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds, Dean of Student Life Suzy M. Nelson, and Secretary of the Administrative Board John “Jay” L. Ellison—were on the scene throughout much of the day.
At first, police closed off only the grassy area of the yard, allowing bystanders to walk along the pathways near University Hall, Widener Library, and Sever Hall. But as the day progressed, the perimeter grew until several gates on Mass. Ave. and Quincy St. were closed and the entirety of Tercentenary Theatre was cordoned off with yellow tape.
While police stood watch over the body in Tercentenary Theatre, tour groups and pedestrians continued to pass through the other side of Harvard Yard as usual.
At some point in the afternoon, authorities removed the body, and a man with a yellow cleaning cart showed up to clean off the granite.
By 3:45 p.m., the police tape had been taken down, and tourists resumed posing and taking photographs in front of Memorial Church. A damp spot remained near the area where the man had fallen.
Sometime between Saturday and Sunday afternoon, a single bouquet of red and orange roses was placed where the body had lain. A sealed letter lay next to the bouquet with the words “To my friend” written in neat cursive on the front.
—Punit N. Shah contributed to the reporting of this article.
—Staff writer Elias J. Groll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Naveen N. Srivatsa can be reached at email@example.com.