Tue. Oct 11, 2005
Big City, Big Crimes
I had a busy day Monday, my head down into the keyboard, so I wasn’t exactly tracking local news. Imagine my surprise when I see that one of the most linked stories is about a “terrorism bombing” in Atlanta. Then, imagine my yawning ennui to find yet another overblown story that turns out to be more media sensationalism and blogger blather than fact, while another ominous story is completely ignored (“Look, a pony!” ... as a T-Rex walks by behind them).
The AJC ought to be embarrassed at the skimpy excuse for an article they have: “Two Georgia Tech freshman dormitories were evacuated Monday when a plastic water bottle found in a courtyard exploded with a loud bang in a campus custodian’s hands.”
Which isn’t even accurate, according to the report on the 11Alive 11:00 news. They reported the custodian was using a grab-stick to pick up trash, and when he grabbed the bottle with the stick, it went off. But not in a very big way: “The employee, who complained of ringing in his ears, was taken to a clinic for evaluation, but was not seriously injured.”
However, earlier Monday, 11Alive had this quote online: “‘It is a terrorist act at this point and depending on the outcome of the investigation it potentially could become a federal violation as well,’ said Major C.W. Moss of the Atlanta Police Department.”
The thing is, this has happened before, on November 9, 2001
A rude awakening greeted Tech fraternity members whose houses are located near the intersection of Fifth Street and Techwood Drive early Sunday morning when a small device exploded in the area. The incident injured one member of the Georgia Tech Police Department and set in motion a chain of events that blocked off streets in the area for almost four hours.
“The explosion was kind of low level, even though technically it was an explosion, and this type of device is illegal,” said Jack Vickery, Georgia Tech Chief of Police.
According to Vickery, a GTPD officer spotted a suspicious college-aged white male in the area shortly before the explosion. The officer originally thought the man might be looking for an automobile to break into, as a number of such burglaries have occurred on campus in recent weeks.
“The officer got out [of his patrol car] to investigate and the guy took off running. He left a bag sitting on the ground,” said Vickery.
As the officer approached the bag, part of it exploded. He later found out the bag contained two two-liter bottles filled with a volatile liquid. The explosion was caused by one of the two bottles exploding.
While officials are still investigating to determine exactly what substance was in the liquid that caused the bottles to explode, Vickery noted that it was most likely a mixture of a number of chemicals that built-up the gas pressure inside and eventually caused the explosion.
This is nearly identical to the device they described on the news tonight. Not only has it happened before, but at that time Tech’s Chief of Police said (emphasis mine), “‘It has been a while, but we have encountered this type of thing before’ said Vickery [...] ‘Folks need to know that things that would at one time be considered pranks can’t be done anymore.’”
And, you must remember, this is an engineering school. In the South. Pranks are legendary, like stealing the “T” from the word Tech on the campus tower. Or read about the story of George P. Burdell, who has been a student at Tech … since 1927. That’s a 78 year old prank.
Now, you could argue that any type of explosive device moves the act well beyond a “prank,” and I’d be inclined to agree. But … I would also ask, has any college student ever taken a “prank” to an extreme and had it careen out of control? Yep. Time or two.
It’s a felony, beyond a prank. But to put this together with other stories and go straight to “are our campuses fountains for jihad” borders on paranoia, and violates Occam’s Razor. The most obvious and simplest theory is that a college student did something really stupid, and could end up in jail over it … as has happened for various reasons at various colleges for decades. It’s far more yee-haw than jihad.
Meanwhile, just northeast of Atlanta, there was what I would consider a far more ominous crime, if only because it shows what is possible.
Under cover of night, a stolen charter jet landed at Gwinnett County Airport/Briscoe Field in Lawrenceville, and police don’t know who’s responsible.
Gwinnett County police are investigating how a Cessna Citation 650 jet came to be sitting on the Briscoe tarmac. It was found early Monday afternoon, Gwinnett police spokesman Darren Moloney said. The plane landed between 9 p.m. Saturday and 6:30 a.m. Sunday, he said. The flight tower at Briscoe is in operation from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
According to the St. Augustine Sheriff’s Office, pilots from Pinnacle Air Jet Charter landed the plane at the St. Augustine Airport about 10:40 a.m. Saturday. After they dropped off their clients, they left the plane on the tarmac and waited for their next flight assignment. The pilots first realized the plane was gone Monday morning.AJC: Stolen jet found at Briscoe Field
Did you parse the timeline on that? A plane was stolen in Florida and lands in Atlanta sometime after dark Saturday night. It is Monday morning before anyone even knows it is gone. It’s Monday afternoon before anyone at the Gwinnett County Airport notices “hey, somebody backed a plane between two big hangers … almost like they wanted to hide it. Hmm.”
And this is no tiny Cessna. It’s a twin-engine 7 passenger jet with a range of 2,000 miles, and the cockpit looks unlike that of any Cessna I’ve ever been in. It would take more than your average pilot to fly it. A witness saw one person walking away from that plane Saturday night, and thought nothing of it. After all, if you park a $7 million jet, you’ll be coming back for it, right? Nothing really suspicious there.
Well, in this case, it’s probably just a really upscale form of carjacking. But, apparently, if you got da skillz, you can steal a sizable aircraft and tool around for up to 36 hours before anyone will even notice it’s gone. Could just be me, but I find that a bit more disconcerting than an overpressured soda bottle bomb.
Later: I’ve posted an update to these two incidents. It turns out the “Georgia Tech bomber” wasn’t an Islamic jihadist. He was … a blogger. And the plane was stolen for a joyride by another relative youth with more skillz than judgement.