New Jersey Boy, 16, Slips by Security, Climbs to Top of 1 World Trade Center to Take Photos
A New Jersey teenager fascinated by the construction of 1 World Trade Center scrambled though a hole in a fence at ground zero in the middle of the night and made his way past several layers of security to the top of the tower, where he took pictures for hours. Ida Siegal reports. (Published Thursday, Mar 20, 2014)
Updated at 6:30 AM EDT on Friday, Mar 21, 2014
A New Jersey teenager fascinated by the construction of 1 World Trade Center scrambled though a hole in a fence at ground zero in the middle of the night and made his way past several layers of security to the top of the tower, where he took pictures for hours.
According to court papers, 16-year-old Justin Casquejo told authorities he first canvassed the construction site and figured out the best way to get to the roof.
Around 4 a.m. Sunday, Casquejo sneaked out of his home and headed to lower Manhattan. He crawled through a hole in the fence at the World Trade Center site, then got on an elevator, and, even though he had no identification on him, the operator took him to the 88th floor, the New York Post reported.
The teen then climbed the stairs to the 104th floor, where the Post says he passed a sleeping guard assigned to cover the top of the tower, got out to the roof and made his way up to the antenna.
Casquejo wasn't caught until he was coming back down from his two-hour photo excursion. A construction worker spotted him and alerted authorities. He was taken into custody by Port Authority police and charged with misdemeanor trespassing. His camera and cellphone were seized after authorities obtained a search warrant.
Officials believe the teenager may have donned a hard hat to try to disguise himself as a construction worker, the Post reports. He told the Post he wasn't allowed to talk about the case.
He waved to an NBC 4 New York reporter outside his home Thursday morning but didn't answer questions. Casquejo is next due in court April 2.
His Facebook page is filled with photos of him posing near 1 World Trade Center and mentions a litany of past daredevil exploits. But the fact he was able to get by a security system designed to protect a terror target raises other concerns.
The Port Authority Police Department, the NYPD and a private security company all are responsible for securing the outside of the site. A private company patrols the interior.
"New Yorkers should be very concerned," security expert Manny Gomez told NBC 4 New York. "That is the no. 1 target for terrorism in the entire planet."
"This isn't impregnable like they say it is," said Gomez, a former Marine and FBI special agent who now owns a New York City security firm.
Joe Dunne, chief security officer for the Port Authority, told the Associated Press that any security breaches are taken seriously and will be prosecuted.
"We continue to reassess our security posture at the site and are constantly working to make this site as secure as possible," Dunne said.
According to the Post, the guard who was sleeping at the top of the tower was fired. The elevator operator who took the teenager to the 88th floor has been re-assigned.
Neither the NYPD nor the private companies responded to the Post's requests for comment.
-- Andrew Siff contributed to this report
Published at 7:33 AM EDT on Mar 20, 2014