That morning, four seniors at the prestigious college were asleep in an undergraduate suite in Leverett House. They awoke to at least five armed members of the Harvard University Police Department banging on their door. HUPD allegedly ordered the students to exit into the hallway at gunpoint.
Authorities escorted seniors Jarah Cotton, Jazmin Dunlap, David Madzivanyika, and Alexandra René out of the suite while they searched inside for a possible threat. After the raid, HUPD spokesperson Steven Catalano revealed in an interview that officers appeared at the residence after a report of “threatening violence against occupants.”
Disgusting response. U cant call sleeping students on phone? You cant wake up the Resident Dean’s ass & have them knock? Were deans briefed on raid prior? They failed these students. Someone high up shld be fired. (& bring back room phones) #classic #harvard #mapoli @universalhub pic.twitter.com/1fODgZA6DS
— Pat Miguel Tomaino (@otherMisterT) April 4, 2023
They also briefed the students on the false report, but the damage was already done. Cotton informed the outlet that when she initially awoke, police in raid gear were allegedly already in the suite.
With assault rifles reportedly pointed at them, Cotton also noted police told them to raise their hands while taken to a neighboring suite. “All I can recall having in my mind is ‘I haven’t done anything,'” Cotton said. “I really had no clue why they were raiding our suite.”
In an email to the newspaper, Cotton revealed, “We were all extremely scared, particularly because my roommates and I are Black students who have been bombarded our whole lives with stories and images portraying how situations such as this had ended up terribly. We felt our lives were in danger. We are traumatized.”
Birukti Tsige, who was in the suite across the hall, said she grabbed her phone and began recording the situation. She also expressed her concern because Cotton and her suitemates are Black. “I was really, really scared, but I feel like that was nothing compared to how the other suite felt,” Tsige said.
The department later determined that the false report was an act of “swatting.” Swatting is when an individual places a false emergency call with the intent to torment a target by initiating a forceful police response. The FBI has been made aware of the incident and is coordinating with HUPD on the matter, the outlet stated.
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