A well-intentioned joke ended up bringing hordes of police and firefighters to the Business School yesterday afternoon to remove a bomb--which was in fact a deactivated hand grenade--from a student's mailbox.
After David Moyer, 26, a first-year MBA student, won the "bomb of the week" award for a comment deemed "most inappropriate" by his section-mates, he stored the prize in his dormitory mailbox while he went to lunch.
Minutes later, a postman found the grenade and called the police, who called the fire department and rescue squads.
By about 12:45 p.m., a Boston bomb squad had arrived, the 50 students and staff members in Gallatin Hall had been evacuated, and reporters were pushing their way through a crowd of about 100 people in anticipation of explosive destruction.
Out to Lunch
Moyer was just finishing lunch and heading to his next class. Only about 20 minutes later, as the bomb squad safely carted away what was called a "practice" grenade, did the truth came out.
When a dean pulled Moyer from class to ask why a bomb might be in his mailbox, the student said he had lost the keys to his room and had been late to lunch, so he thought he would "safely" put the device in his box until he could obtain a new set of room keys.
"I was a victim of circumstance," Moyer said.
"I can't believe such a little thing gets people all upset. I had to talk to the police. I had to talk to the dean. I had to talk to the dean's dean," Moyers said.
Police and firefighters, however, were not amused. In the last month, unidentified terrorists have placed bombs in three separate mailboxes in Cambridge and Boston, one of which blew up in the face of a policeman who was removing the explosive.
"This was really naive for some allegedly brilliant people," said Harvard Police Chief Paul E. Johnson. Moyers "wins the award for stupidity," he said.
Although this incident did not prove deadly, the bomb squad at the scene took no chances. One firefighter ordered officials to avoid communicating over the air waves, and the team decided not to remove the grenade from the mailbox until a thorough analysis had been completed, one officer said.
Johnson said he would not be sure of the exact nature of the grenade until the Army Explosive Ordinance Detachment completes an analysis of the device, but said he thought it contained no explosives.
The chief said there would be no charges brought against those involved in what he described as an "innocent" joke.
"Once we get this altogether we will speak with the dean over at the Business School and make sure this does not happen again," Johnson said.
B-School deans would not comment on the incident, but a spokesman said he thought the student council at the school would consider the matter.
Brenton H. Rupple, another first year MBA student, said the joke was a tradition for "Section G" students at the school. Rupple said he gave Moyers the bomb in yesterday's class after Moyers used "some accounting phraseology" in class that "no one was familiar with. It was rather esoteric," said Rupple.
"Certainly the bomb squad was no joke, but there is some humor in this," Rupple said, adding that "this will not deter our efforts [to award inappropriate class comments] with the bomb.