Police confirm popping balloons led to response for Simmons University 'threat'

BOSTON — Simmons University sent an alert to students, staff and faculty regarding an 'active threat' on campus -- but the school issued an 'all clear' alert shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday.

The email and text alerts had told people on campus to hide and barricade the door.

"Active threat on campus. If on campus, barricade door & hide. Avoid windows. Run, if option. Avoid campus. Wait for instructions."

Boston Police told Boston 25 News officers responded to a call for shots fired shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday, but the school sent out an all clear roughly 30 minutes after the alert was sent out.

"We look at an incident like today as certainly a learning opportunity," spokesperson Jeremy Solomon said. "But we're most grateful nobody was hurt today."

Boston Police confirmed that what prompted the call was a planned activity in the area to pop balloons, and the department said when it happened, it echoed in the area. The echos then caused people to think they were hearing gunshots, which led to the response.

Boston Latin School said shortly before 3:30 the school was still in 'safe mode', but eventually lifted it.

Simmons University sent the following statement to Boston 25 News:

At approximately 2:36 pm, a Simmons University student reported hearing sounds that she thought resembled shots fired. Out of an abundance of caution, a lockdown was ordered. Boston Police conducted a thorough search of the academic campus and found no evidence of any shot being fired. The All Clear was issued at 3:09 pm.

Students and parents were all left to panic during the emergency, with many contacting loved ones right away as fear struck.

"As soon as I got into the room after I received the text message there was an active threat, I texted them what was going on, and I told my mom, dad and sister that I loved them." Simmons University sophomore Isabelle Molander said.

Freshman Natalie Cunniff from Mansfield said she took shelter in a bathroom as police responded.

"It was really tense," Cunniff said. "It’s s one-person bathroom with 10 other girls in there. We were all pretty much on the same page that we weren’t going to open the door."

Simon Brown, 12, peeked out the window at his school and saw the huge police presence, while his seventh-grade classmates reassured him it would be okay.

"Most of the students I was with knew what was happening," Brown said. "But, I was a little bit scared because I’d never been in a really big lockdown."

Meanwhile, parents were left looking for answers, and some weren't ready to wait for them.

"As a parent, I’m not going to wait for somebody to tell me to come get my kid," Maggie Beers said. "I was already on my way."

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