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Former Northeastern University employee charged with staging on-campus bomb hoax

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Federal law enforcement officials in Boston are charging a former Northeastern University employee with staging a bomb hoax on campus last month. The report of a package explosion generated a massive police response, and it locked down part of the city. Walter Wuthmann of member station WBUR reports.

WALTER WUTHMANN, BYLINE: Jason Duhaime was the director of Northeastern's Immersive Media Lab. He called 911 the night of September 13, saying a package he carried up to the lab exploded. Court documents show Duhaime told FBI investigators the plastic case burst open and sprayed sharp objects that injured his hand. The package also contained a letter railing against Duhaime's Media Lab and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. A federal bomb squad came and secured a second suspicious package. In a press conference today, FBI special agent in charge Joseph Bonavolonta said Duhaime's story quickly unraveled under scrutiny.

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JOSEPH BONAVOLONTA: We believe he repeatedly lied to us about what happened inside the lab, faked his injuries and wrote a rambling letter directed at the lab, threatening more violence.

WUTHMANN: Investigators say they found no burns or shrapnel at the scene, and they found a copy of the letter on Duhaime's computer. Law enforcement officials are not commenting on a possible motive, but Bonavolonta says Duhaime may have been seeking attention.

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BONAVOLONTA: We believe Mr. Duhaime wanted to be the victim but instead victimized his entire community by instilling fear at college campuses in Massachusetts and beyond.

WUTHMANN: U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins said Duhaime's actions brought back memories of the bombings at the Boston Marathon in 2013 that killed three people and injured hundreds.

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RACHAEL ROLLINS: Our city, more than most, knows all too well that a report or threat of an explosion is a very serious matter and necessitates an immediate and significant law enforcement response given the potential devastation that can ensue.

WUTHMANN: Duhaime stands accused of conveying false information and hoaxes related to an explosive device and making material false and fictitious statements to investigators. Duhaime is no longer employed by Northeastern. He was arrested near his home in Texas. His defense attorney has not returned a request for comment. For NPR News, I'm Walter Wuthmann in Boston.

(SOUNDBITE OF BUN B AND STATIK SELEKTAH SONG, "SUPERSTARR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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