CAMBRIDGE — An e-mail threatening violence against hundreds of people with ties to Harvard University appears to have targeted Asians, several people who received it said. But campus police believe the missive may not have been a credible threat, and a convoluted apology arrived Saturday evening from what appeared to be the same e-mail account.
The death threat, which was sent Friday afternoon, led to heightened security on the Ivy League campus Saturday and a student-sponsored event focused on the experiences of Asian-Americans at Harvard was postponed by organizers over concerns about safety.
The recipient list displayed on the e-mail appeared legitimate and included many Asian surnames, said Boston City Councilor at Large Michelle Wu .
“I want to know how this list was put together,” said Wu, a Harvard graduate who received the threatening e-mail.
The writer, who claims her name is Stephanie Nguyen, also used a racial slur targeting Asians.
“It was a little unsettling to me,” Wu said.
In an advisory posted online Saturday morning, campus police said the threat appears to have come from abroad and is probably not serious.
Still, organizers of an event billed as a discussion about being Asian-American at Harvard said they rescheduled the gathering for next week. The discussion was being put on by Asian cultural and religious groups as well as students who identify as Asian-American or Pacific Islander, organizers said.
“No one should have to open their inbox and see a such a threatening and racially charged message,” event organizers said in a statement provided to the Globe. “We are saddened that someone would go to such lengths to threaten the safety of our Harvard community.”
The organizers asked that their names not be published for “safety and security reasons.” The event has been rescheduled for Oct. 11.
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Jeff A. Neal, a Harvard spokesman, said the school could not comment on whether the death threat targeted individuals with Asian surnames.
“We cannot share additional information related to the investigation at this time,” Neal said in an e-mail.
Emily Wang, a sophomore from Connecticut, said she received the threat.
“I knew that it might be targeting Asians since the e-mail . . . did have some . . . racist comments in it,” she said. “There were a decent number of Asians, yes, that got the e-mail.”
Those seeking support were invited to attend a gathering at Adams House on Saturday afternoon.
Later Saturday, an apparent apology arrived from a writer who claimed to be a 15-year-old resident of France. Sent to at least some of those who received the initial threat, the follow-up e-mails arrived around 5 p.m.
“It was my little brother who has written the e-mail,” said the message, the text of which Wu provided to the Globe. “I’m not a killer, not a killer, please tell your dirketor so . . . To all Harvard students and staff I’m sorry what wrote my brother please I will bear the responsibility please call back all media.”
The latest e-mail also attributes the racial slur in the threat to the unnamed brother, and said he did not mean it. The writer continues to ask to be excused for the “inconvenience,” using a German word, which is misspelled in the text.
Neal said campus police were aware of the new e-mail and were investigating
Hundreds of people connected to Harvard received the initial e-mail Friday, in which the author threatened to gun down recipients on campus.
In the profanity-laced e-mail, the writer said: “I will come tomorrow in Harvard University and shoot all of you each one of you. all Harvard students, I will kill you individually. I’ll be back tomorrow at 11 clock in your [expletive] university and will kill you, you sons of [expletive]. Even Mark Zuckerberg of facebook I will kill. I’m going to kill every one of you.”
Zuckerberg is a former Harvard student and a cofounder of the social networking site Facebook.
Harvard police and private security personnel were visible Saturday throughout the campus with officers patrolling on foot, on bicycle, on motorcycle, and in cruisers. The threat however, did not seem to deter tourists, who posed for pictures at the John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard, or students, who ventured outdoors.
Bonirath Chhay, a freshman from Woonsocket, R.I., said a food lab meeting she planned to attend was canceled. She said the meeting was for an extracurricular project aimed at teaching middle school students how to eat healthier using scientific concepts.
“The people who organized it thought it would be best if we not have to leave our rooms more than necessary,” Chhay said.
Laura Crimaldi can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.