Yesterday evening, terrible events unfolded on and near MIT’s campus. An MIT Police officer, who is still unnamed, was reported shot at 10:48 p.m. near the Stata Center, and was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Shortly after, investigation into an armed carjacking reported along Memorial Drive led west into Watertown, where two suspects attacked police officers with explosives and stolen weapons. As of press time — 5:30 a.m. — only one suspect has been apprehended; he was shot by police officers and pronounced dead after transport to a local hospital. The other suspect remains at large. Police have secured a perimeter and will resume the search come daylight.
The first tremor of Thursday night’s tragedies arrived around 10:25 p.m. when a postdoctoral student working in Building 76 called the MIT Police to report loud noises, possibly gunshots. At 10:31 p.m. the fallen officer was discovered by another MIT officer between the Stata Center and Building 76. By 12:15 a.m. it was confirmed that the officer had been killed.
As warnings and comfort spread rapidly via social media, the night turned from a single tragedy into a firestorm. Around 12:25 a.m. reports began to arrive that a carjacking victim had been released at 816 Memorial Drive, near the corner with River Street. At press time, connection to the Stata shooting remains unconfirmed.
At 12:45 a.m. explosives were detonated in Watertown, which borders Cambridge to the west. Information over the ensuing hours was chaotic, incomplete, and terrifying. But hopes that the reports were simply overblown, as early reports so often are, faded as police radio confirmed reports of injured officers, a stolen Massachusetts State Police SUV, and the use of long guns and explosives, presumed to have been stolen from the SUV. There were two suspects reported.
By 1:00 a.m., one suspect was in custody and a second was detained. The first suspect had an explosive on his chest that exploded when apprehended. Reports were scattered, with police from MIT, Cambridge, Boston, Brookline, Boston University, the Massachusetts State Police, and others responding to the scene. Several minutes later, fears of more improvised explosive devices led to an order to all police officers: Turn off your cell phones immediately. As members of the media arrived on the scene, they were subject to the same requirement. Fortunately, any explosions after this point are reported to have been controlled detonations, not attacks.
At 1:07 a.m., a second person was apprehended and held prone at gunpoint while officials — and possibly robots — scanned the area around him for explosives. As information propagated between the various police departments and across several channels of communication, it became clear that this second person was not the suspect they were looking for and the manhunt resumed.
Evidence, including motor vehicles and explosive devices, has been located at the scene. However, the second suspect remains at large as of press time. A “strong perimeter” has been established around the surrounding Watertown blocks, and officers are planning to conduct house-to-house searches with the aid of police dogs in the morning.
Links between the three events — the MIT shooting, the carjacking, and the violence in Watertown — were unconfirmed for most of the night. In a statement to The Boston Globe, Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio said that the shooting at MIT and the events in Watertown seem appeared to be connected.
Questions about connections to the Boston Marathon Bombings have of course pervaded discussions and reporting. Boston Police Commissioner Davis has reported that the suspect at large is believed to be the second suspect in the Boston Marathon Bombings. It has now been confirmed that these suspects are the same as the marathon bombing suspects.
The campus response to the evening’s horrors has been one of hope and support. Similar to Monday, many have reached out to confirm friends are safe and aware of the events, as MIT mailing lists overflowed with constant updates. At 5:10 a.m., an email sent to the entire campus from Israel Ruiz and Eric Grimson cancelled Friday classes, saying, “The officer gave his life to defend the peace of our campus. His sacrifice will never be forgotten by the Institute.”
An email from Stephanie Birkhimer ’14 circulated on dormitory mailing lists: “I’m wearing black tomorrow in memory of the MIT officer who was killed tonight, and I invite you all to do the same. That could have easily been any one of us, and I’d like to show some respect to him for protecting us, and mourn the loss of a member of our community.” Students across campus have pledged to do the same.
Joanna Kao, Ethan A. Solomon, and Ian M. Gorodisher contributed reporting.