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Officials now consider Northeastern 'explosion' a possible hoax after holes found in story

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Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

On September 13 around 7 p.m., a suspicious package was reportedly found outside Holmes Hall at Northeastern University in Boston. Jason Duhaime, a 45-year-old employee of the private research school, claimed to have spotted and opened what has been described as a pressurized Pelican-type case. Upon opening, the case allegedly exploded. Although Duhaime — who had injuries on his hands — was first believed to be a victim, now officials are not so sure.

The Boston Globe reported that Duhaime, new technology manager with the college's Media Studio, told investigators that the one-page typewritten letter found at the scene was inside the case before it allegedly exploded. Two law enforcement officials briefed on the case spoke to the Globe on the condition of anonymity. One official indicated that the letter was found neatly folded and undamaged.

The letter, characterized as rambling, condemned the university for working with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the U.S. government. The letter also threatened to destroy Northeastern's technology lab unless it stopped working on artificial intelligence and the metaverse.

Investigators weren't driven to skepticism by the unblemished letter alone. The case is not believed to have been sent through the U.S. Postal Service. There were no explosive materials or gunpowder found in or around the case, leaving investigators to suspect it may have been a "pressurized hoax device."

Duhaime's injuries were allegedly inconsistent with those caused by an explosion.

Boston 25 reported that the FBI has since visited Duhaime's former residence in Medford, Massachusetts, where his ex-wife resides.

Duhaime told the Globe on September 14, "I did not stage this, in no way shape or form. ... They need to catch the guy that did this." He went on to note his affinity for the college and denied again having staged the incident. "I cannot believe people are spreading rumors about this."

The university issued a statement on Wednesday noting that "the incident that took place on our Boston campus last night can create or heighten anxiety for many of us. ... Multiple law enforcement agencies have determined that the campus is safe and secure."

Notwithstanding the prospect of anxiety, one Boston firefighter who reported to the incident suggested that if it was an explosion, it could not have been very loud. "There were kids [still] in the classroom, so they must not have heard it. ... People did not seem panicked at all."

If indeed it was a hoax, then it will not have been the first in recent memory.

On August 22, a U.S. Marshal detained 50-year-old James Dean Fowler outside the Elizabeth Kee Federal Building in downtown Bluefield, West Virginia. Fowler, who had clad himself in makeshift armor composed of magazines, claimed he had a bomb in his backpack.

Fowler allegedly stated that he wanted to speak and to be heard about issues concerning national security and explained he had left a second device outside the Westminster Church on Washington Street.

After the federal courthouse, the church, and surrounding areas were evacuated, bomb squads arrived. Both devices Fowler had indicated were bombs were determined to be hoax devices.

According to the Bluefield Police Department, Fowler was charged with two counts of possession or use of a hoax bomb in commission of a felony, one count of false reports concerning bombs or explosive devices, and two counts of threats of terrorist acts.

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