Shooting? What Shooting?

Reporter's Notebook

The Reporter's Notebook has returned from a not-so brief hiatus. The class schedule has been rough, but midterms are nearly over, and staff writers have some intriguing tales to report...

When shooting tore through Harvard Square last Friday night, Cambridge and Harvard police promptly responded. No Harvard police officer discharged a firearm, but detective Hubert Estes was on the scene and made an arrest. In all, seven people were arrested.

Word of the incident, which took place at 8 p.m. with several students in the area, spread quickly through the Harvard community, as several deans and even President Neil L. Rudenstine were made aware of the situation.

But police sources say that when top University officials called the police station at 29 Garden St. on Monday looking for information, they discovered one person hadn't learned of the incident: Police Chief Paul E. Johnson.

"When important folks at the University--[General Counsel Margaret H.] Marshall, Rudenstine--called, he couldn't give any answers," said one senior police official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He should have been notified that night."

Angry and embarrassed, Johnson put out a memo this week telling department staff that he must be notified if a similar situation should arise in the future.

Not everyone agrees with this account. Sgt. William Donaldson, who was on duty that night, said the chief was notified "over the weekend" but refused to specify exactly when. Either Donaldson or a superior was supposed to have called the chief, sources said.

Police sources, however, said the incident betrays a lack of communication inside the department that is dangerous and ultimately, Johnson's responsibility.

"I'm totally at a loss for what's going on in the man's head," the senior official said.

Johnson did not return phone calls about Monday's incident.