BOSTON – More than 10 blinking electronic devices planted at bridges and other spots in Boston threw a scare into the city in what turned out to be a publicity campaign for a late-night cable cartoon. The devices depict a character making an obscene gesture.
Boston police said Wednesday night that one person had been arrested, and authorities scheduled a news conference later in the evening to provide details.
Highways, bridges and a section of the Charles River were shut down and bomb squads were sent in before authorities declared the devices were harmless.
"It's a hoax — and it's not funny," said Gov. Deval Patrick, who said he will speak to the state's attorney general "about what recourse we may have."
Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner Inc. and parent of Cartoon Network, said the devices were part of a promotion for the TV show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," a surreal series about a talking milkshake, a box of fries and a meatball.
"They have been in place for two to three weeks in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Parent company Turner Broadcasting is in contact with local and federal law enforcement on the exact locations of the billboards. We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger."
Some of the images left on the devices were in the form of characters called "Mooninites" from "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," which is a show on the "Adult Swim" block of adult programming shown on the Cartoon Network. The show is an animated comedy about three detectives in the shape of human-sized food products that live together in a rental house in New Jersey.
Earlier, bomb units scrambled to investigate five suspicious devices reported almost simultaneously throughout the city. It later appeared that there were as many as 10 devices in the greater Boston area; sources said many, if not all, had keyboard themes.
As the investigation was unfolding, Gail Marcinkiewicz, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Boston, said at least seven devices had been found but that they did not appear to be related to terrorism.
"There's no nexus to terrorism here, I can tell you that," she said.
The reports forced the temporary shutdowns of part of an interstate, a key inbound roadway and a bridge between Boston and Cambridge.
The first device was found in the morning at an MBTA subway and bus station located under Interstate 93. The device was detonated and determined to be harmless, but as a precaution the station and Interstate 93 out of the city shut down temporarily.
Then, around 1 p.m., police said four calls came in reporting suspicious devices at the Boston University Bridge, the Longfellow Bridge, the Tufts-New England Medical Center and a major intersection at Columbus and Stuard streets.
One device, deemed not active, was found inside an administration building at the medical center and those inside were given the all-clear. Sources said the device in the medical center might not be related to the other devices found throughout the city, since it did not have the computer theme on it.
It "looked like some tubing, not an active device," said spokeswoman Brooke Hynes.
Another spokeswoman, Catherine Bromberg, said police told hospital officials the device was not an explosive sometime after 2 p.m. The hospital was never evacuated, though the area near where the device was reported was cleared and was being treated as a crime scene, she said.
A package also was found attached to a structure beneath the Boston University Bridge near where it crosses the Massachusetts Turnpike, said Jennifer Mieth, a spokeswoman for the state Fire Marshal.
She said officials determined it was not explosive, and was similar to the package found beneath Interstate 93 at the Sullivan Square T station on the Orange Line. Mieth described the object at the T station as "a sophisticated electronic device."
Subway service across the Longfellow Bridge, between Boston and Cambridge, was suspended temporarily but was later allowed to resume.
At least one of the devices was described to FOX News as a computer keyboard, to which a picture of someone "flipping off" the viewer was taped. Officials at the time suggested that the picture might be an attempt to mock police investigating the device.
"No matter who did this, I think there's probably enough evidence I think the Boston Police Department, the bureau, state police — everybody will probably get together … I wouldn't be surprised to see someone charged in this. This is an extremely serious situation," former FBI Director Bill Gavin told FOX News during the investigation.
"Whoever did this — whether it be kids or adults — if they think it's funny, I think they'll soon learn it's not that much of a humorous situation."
FOX News' Catherine Herridge, Molly Line and The Associated Press contributed to this report.