Courthouse

Five Moroccan-French men were caught breaking into the San Antonio Courthouse while intoxicated on Oct. 19 2011. Surveillance cameras caught them running down the halls wearing sombreros (taken from the courthouse law library) and playing with a judge’s gavel.

The men, who are French citizens touring various locations in the United States, had been drinking excessively before they decided to break into the courthouse for amusement.

While doing so, they set off a silent alarm that alerted the San Antonio Police Department.

When the police caught them at 1:30 a.m., the courthouse horseplay turned into rumors of a terrorist attack. The five men arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on Sept. 10 and spent the next day in the city, which sparked suspicion from police officers according to the San Antonio Express-News.

They rented an RV in New Jersey and drove it to Miami before arriving in San Antonio.

The San Antonio officials also assumed that the five men were attempting to steal private documents from the courthouse.

There were even reports stating that at least two of the five men were on an FBI watch list.

First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg told the LA Times, “Why would a bunch of tourists choose a courthouse to break into? That is the part that’s very hard to reconcile.” This feeling of uncertainty is what prompted the assumptions of ulterior motives for terrorist attacks as police officers began gathering evidence. Officers even searched the building for explosive material.

“We’re still trying to determine whether these individuals had a plot or were just on a little vacation trek,” Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Dale Bennett said to the LA Times. No weapons were found on the five men and there were beer bottles in the courthouse, indicating their intoxication. Both pieces of information failed to fully convince police officers.

CBS News reported Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz saying, “Because they are foreign nationals, and because of everything that has happened in the United States recently, we can’t take anything like this as a prank.”

County Judge Nelson Wolff further commented during the investigation, “It’s just so very strange. It’s either some guys on a prank of some sort, or it could be terrorists” (CBS News). As the foreign men were being questioned, investigators started to realize that the break-in presented no intended threat.

The men spoke little English and cooperated with the officers while being asked questions with the help of a translator. Investigators then searched the RV that the men were traveling in and found pictures of them around landmarks and cities across the United States. And after much investigation, police officers concluded that this was nothing more than a prank and they found no clear terrorist motive in their break in.

“They were clowning around in the courtroom. They put on Mexican hats, they grabbed the gavel. That gave us an indication they weren’t up to anything other than a prank,” Ortiz told CBS News.

All five men were arrested and are charged with burglary. But reports stating that two of the men were on federal watch lists were argued against by Ortiz and the FBI. The gavel that had been taken belongs to District Judge Victor Negrón, who now calls it, “the Moroccan hammer.”

First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg said to LA Times newspaper, “Why would a bunch of tourists choose a courthouse to break into? That is the part that’s very hard to reconcile.” This feeling of uncertainty is what prompted the assumptions of alternate motives for terrorist attacks as police officers began gathering evidence. Officers even searched the building for explosive material.

“We’re still trying to determine whether these individuals had a plot or were just on a little vacation trek” Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Dale Bennett said to the LA Times. No weapons were found on the five men and there were beer bottles in the courthouse, indicating their intoxication. Both pieces of information failed to fully convince police officers.

CBS News reported Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz saying, “Because they are foreign nationals, and because of everything that has happened in the United States recently, we can’t take anything like this as a prank.”

County Judge Nelson Wolff further commented during the investigation, “It’s just so very strange. It’s either some guys on a prank of some sort, or it could be terrorists” (CBS News). As the foreign men were being questioned, investigators started to realize that the break-in presented no intended threat.

The men spoke little English and cooperated with the officers while being asked questions with the help of a translator. Investigators then searched the RV that the men were traveling in and found pictures of them around landmarks and cities across the United States. And after much investigation, police officers concluded that this was nothing more than a prank and they found no clear terror motive in their break in. Ortiz stated, “They were clowning around in the courtroom. They put on Mexican hats, they grabbed the gavel. That gave us an indication they weren’t up to anything other than a prank” (CBS News).

All five men were arrested and are charged with burglary. But reports stating that two of the men were on federal watch lists were argued against by Ortiz and the FBI. The gravel that had been taken belongs to District Judge Victor Negrón, who now calls it, “the Moroccan hammer.”

 

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