A suspicious package mistakenly identified as a bomb Friday morning prompted New Haven Police to close off a portion of College Street between Crown and Chapel streets and to evacuate nearby residents.
At 8:30 a.m. Friday, a 911 caller reported a suspicious package in the alleyway next to the Palace Theater, directly across from the Shubert Theater, New Haven Police spokeswoman Bonnie Winchester said. Three hours later, officials ultimately determined that the device was harmless and the street was reopened.
“It turns out that the item that they were looking at was a theatrical prop, so, much ado about nothing,” Winchester said.
The initial police responders found the device in a box outside a dumpster in the alley, Winchester said. Upon inspection, the head of the emergency services unit determined the device “looked authentic.”
As a precaution, police officers closed streets around the Palace during the subsequent investigation, and evacuated some of the surrounding buildings, including the apartment complex at 271 Crown that includes the Alpha Epsilon Pi house.
Jesse Pizarro ’06, a resident of the AEPi house, returned from morning classes to see his shaken friends on the street.
“I met my roommates. They were all in their pajamas — they had all been kicked out,” Pizarro said.
Rob Spiro ’06, the former president of AEPi, said firefighters entered the house at about 9:00 a.m.
“I was already awake; I walked in and saw them and they said I needed to wake everyone up, because there was a bomb,” Spiro said.
Kai Hasson ’06, a roommate of Pizzaro, said he was asleep when a firefighter entered his room and ordered him to evacuate. Police officers told him to get at least a block away from his apartment for his own safety, Hasson said.
Although the streets were cordoned off, residents of the Taft Apartments were not required to evacuate, and students in Bingham Hall, the nearest Yale building to the bomb, were not notified of the threat. Several residents of evacuated buildings sought refuge from the rain in the Taft lobby, where they waited for further information. Others, including Hasson and his roommates, retreated to Starbucks.
By 10:15 a.m., traffic around the corner of College and Chapel slowed as four police cars and emergency vehicles from the police and fire departments reinforced the yellow emergency tape across the southbound College Street branch of the intersection. Police officers directed pedestrians away from the scene, and firemen clustered around the front of the Palace Theater.
The fire department’s emergency team eventually determined the device was a theater prop, presumably left near the dumpster to be hauled away as trash. Police dispersed shortly thereafter, and by 11:30 a.m., the street had returned to normal.
Winchester said she feels the police department’s actions in the case were justified based on information available at the time.
“They determined it looked like an authentic explosive device, and that’s how they proceeded,” she said.
The incident joins several bomb scares in recent memory. Similar events in Beinecke Plaza and the Yale Law School last year led police to close both locations for several hours, before determining that there was no real threat. Police have been more concerned about suspicious devices since a pipe bomb exploded in the law school May 21, 2003, damaging three rooms.