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The Boston Globe

Metro

FBI, Secret Service join probe of MIT tip of gunman

The FBI and Secret Service confirmed Monday that they have joined the Cambridge and MIT police departments to help investigate an unfounded tip that a gunman was roaming a Massachusetts Institute of Technology building Saturday morning.

Steven Ricciardi, director of the Secret Service’s Boston field office, said the agency’s electronic crimes task force is involved because the incident “does have a component to it that’s associated to the Internet.”

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The FBI’s contribution could range from offering access to federal databases to “a variety of larger measures,” spokesman Greg Comcowich said. He ­declined to discuss details of the MIT case.

At about 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Cambridge police received a tip that a man dressed in armor and carrying a rifle was inside 77 Massachusetts Ave., the main building on MIT’s campus. ­Authorities have said the tip was sent through a form of electronic communication, but have not elaborated.

The tip contained multiple names of specific people, Dan Riviello, a spokesman for the Cambridge Police Department, said Monday. He declined to provide additional details.

Cambridge police said that the MIT building was put in lockdown mode and students and staff across campus were warned to stay indoors while more than 30 officers searched the building.

Massachusetts Avenue between Vassar Street and Memorial Drive was also shut down, but officials determined there was no gunman in the area.

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The MIT community was not notified of the possibility of a gunman until a text message was sent to students and staff more than an hour after author­ities received the tip about a gunman.

A statement posted Saturday by MIT’s news office said the university would conduct an “after-action review” of its communications during the ­incident.

On Monday, the university praised the police department’s swift response to the threat, but the school’s chief of police said that in the future the department will quickly provide information to the community as well.

Cambridge and MIT police arrived at the scene within two minutes of receiving the tip, and “officers immediately ­entered the building to search for any possible suspects,” said a statement from MIT. The alert to students went out at 8:52 a.m.

“My officers were focused on the immediate response on scene to the incident, which was swift and methodical,” said John DiFava, MIT’s chief of ­police. “MIT police has put in place processes to ensure that for future instances of this kind of threat . . . we help provide swift communications to the members of the MIT community.”

State Police assisted with the Saturday search for the gunman. When contacted by the Globe on Sunday, spokesman David Procopio described the report as a hoax. On Monday, Cambridge and MIT police would not answer questions about whether they still consider the report to be a hoax or something more serious.

MIT returned to normal ­operations less than four hours after the event, and this week the university is conducting business as usual.

“There is no apparent threat to public safety,” Comcowich said.

Todd Feathers can be reached at todd.feathers@globe.com. ­Follow him on Twitter at @ToddFeathers.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, this story incorrectly said the FBI had confirmed it was part of the investigation. Although Cambridge police said the FBI was involved, the federal agency did not confirm that.

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