Police believe trash left over from a meeting of the Yale Freestyle Dueling Association was the cause of a bomb scare that closed Beinecke Plaza for several hours on March 7.
Police were contacted around 1:30 p.m. by a person who had noticed a suspicious package near a trash can in front of Woodbridge Hall — the building housing University President Richard Levin’s office. Portions of High and Wall streets were roped off by University and city police for several hours while police investigated the item, which was eventually determined to be harmless.
“It’s something we had to look at,” Yale Police Chief James Perrotti said. “Obviously in the times we live in … you need to take all the precautions.”
Yale Police Lt. Michael Patten said the object was a piece of foam covered in tape, and said police believe it had been left accidentally on the ground after a joust by members of the Freestyle Dueling Association, but had not confirmed it.
The investigation of the package included dozens of police officers and members of the city police’s hazardous devices unit and the New Haven Fire Department’s hazardous materials unit.
A police officer in a large protective bomb suit inspected the package twice before indicating at about 3:30 p.m. that it was innocuous. Police reopened the roads and left Beinecke Plaza soon afterward.
Police are investigating the incident for possible wrongdoing, but Perrotti said it was likely the object was simply dropped by mistake.
Jonathan Light ’04, the president of the Freestyle Dueling Association, said the club did meet the day before the bomb scare in Beinecke Plaza and said the foam could have been left behind then. Yale Police spoke to another member of the team about the incident, Light said.
“They just said to clean up better next time,” Light said.
Perrotti said the police’s actions were part of normal procedure in dealing with suspicious objects and no special attention was given to the package because of its proximity to Levin’s office.
University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith, who oversees the University police, said police used an appropriate amount of caution and followed correct procedures in dealing with the suspicious object.
Most students had already left campus for spring break at the time of the incident, but a small crowd gathered around the police tape to watch the investigation of the package.
Yassmin Sadeghi ’07, a tour guide for the University, led her tour up to the roped-off area, intending to take the tour through Beinecke Plaza. After watching the spectacle for a few minutes, Sadeghi and her tour were waved back to a safer distance by the officer in the bomb suit.
“I was shocked when I saw the guy in the green hazmat suit,” Sadeghi said. “The tour was absolutely shocked.”
The incident comes on the heels of increased concerns about bombings in the city. Three New Haven courthouses were closed by a bomb threat on March 3. On May 21, 2003 a pipe bomb exploded in a lounge of the Yale Law School, damaging three rooms in the building but causing no injuries. No arrests have been made in the ongoing investigation into the explosion.