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MIT hoaxster sent tip using special system

The tipster who sent an ­erroneous report to Cambridge ­police about a gunman in an MIT building used a message relay system designed for people with hearing or speech impedi­ments, police said Tuesday.

The Internet relay service ­allowed the tipster to send a written message to a Sprint phone service employee, who then called the police to relay the message, said Dan ­Riviello, spokesman for the ­Cambridge Police Department.

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During their conversation, the Sprint employee gave police the name of a suspect that the tipster had provided. ­Police contacted that person and deter­mined that he was not ­involved with the incident in any way, a statement from Cambridge police said.

After the tip came in around 7:30 a.m. Saturday, police placed 77 Massachusetts Ave., the main building on MIT’s campus, in lockdown mode and searched the area for nearly four hours.

No gunman was found, and police believe that the report was false, Riviello said.

Police and prosecutors have said they will press charges against the tipster when they uncover the person’s identity.

Sprint spokeswoman Crystal Davis said that in order to be granted access to the relay service, customers must pass through a verification system to confirm that they have a hearing or speech impediment.

Davis said the company would turn over to police the name of the subscriber who sent the tip through the relay service, if that subscriber can be identified.

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