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Police: NJ teen bypasses guard, reaches WTC spire

Teenager Sneaks Past Security Up To WTC To Take Photos


NEW YORK (AP) - A teenage thrill-chaser slipped through a fence, eluded a security guard and climbed to the top of 1 World Trade Center, authorities said Thursday as concerns swirled about the audacious breach at what is supposed to be one of the world's most secure sites.

Justin Casquejo, a New Jersey 16-year-old described by a friend as an adventure-seeker who loves to climb precarious places, spent about two hours early Sunday atop the symbolic and as-yet-unfinished 1,776-foot tower, authorities said. He apparently just wanted bragging rights and perhaps some photos, but the alleged escapade stirred what-ifs about the notion of someone with a more sinister agenda infiltrating the nation's tallest skyscraper.

"Obviously, it was shocking and troubling," said Mayor Bill de Blasio, "and I don't know how possibly it could have happened."

Joe Dunne, security chief of the bistate Port Authority that has jurisdiction over the building, said officials "take security and these types of infractions very seriously."

Casquejo was being held without bail after an arraignment Monday on criminal trespassing. His lawyer, Pamela Griffith, declined to comment. Nobody answered the door Thursday at his Weehawken, N.J., home; an effort to reach him through someone who answered a possible phone number for him wasn't immediately successful.

Casquejo told police he simply walked around the construction site and found a way through the scaffolding around 4 a.m., according to a court complaint. He squeezed through a one-foot opening in a fence, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police. The authority owns the site.

The court complaint quotes Casquejo saying that he climbed to the sixth floor, rode an elevator to the 88th and took the stairs to the 104th. There, he got past an inattentive security guard, a private contractor employee who has since been fired, Pentangelo said.

Casquejo told police, "I went to the rooftop and climbed the ladder all the way to the antenna," according to the complaint.

WABC-TV reported that he took pictures from the top of the building; authorities said they were still trying to determine the teen's motive. He was arrested on the site, and his camera and cellphone were seized after authorities obtained a search warrant, Pentangelo said.

Patrick Flores, an 18-year-old neighbor who grew up with Casquejo, described the teen as "a really good kid" who has always been highly interested in adventure.

"He was always the one climbing the cliffs, doing something stupid," Flores said, referring to the cliffs on which Weehawken sits, across the Hudson River from Manhattan, with clear views of the World Trade Center and the rest of the Manhattan skyline. "But that was him - that was his life."

"I've seen him fall and hit his head and get up and walk away like it was nothing," he added.

Flores said Casquejo had recently become interested in parkour, the extreme sport that combines elements from martial arts, gymnastics and rock climbing and has become popular thanks to YouTube videos of acrobatic athletes vaulting over obstacles such as park benches, trees, guardrails and buildings.

If he was looking for bragging rights, Casquejo couldn't have picked a better building. Throughout its rebuilding since the Sept. 11 attacks, the building once known as the Freedom Tower has been enmeshed in elaborate security plans.

Ultimately, plans call for a $40 million system of barriers and checkpoints around the 16-acre trade center, which includes several towers, the Sept. 11 memorial, a transit hub and other features.

Most of the planned security has yet to be built, but some nearby residents have challenged the plans as overbearing. In a lawsuit last fall, residents said the security measures would turn their neighborhood into a fortress-like environment "as impervious to traffic as the Berlin Wall."

City lawyers defended the security plans as necessary, and the city said the measures were as unobtrusive as possible. A judge dismissed the case last month; the residents are not pursuing an appeal but are pressing their concerns to local officials, their lawyer, Daniel Alterman, said Thursday.

To visitor Steve Murphy, the plans seemed adequate, despite Casquejo's alleged breach.

"I think it's just a one-off thing. ... It's nothing that poses a threat to American security," said Murphy, of York, England, who added that he'd seen danger firsthand during 22 years in the British army. "It's not a concern, at least in my mind."


Porter reported from Weehawken, N.J. Associated Press writers Ula Ilnytzky, Jonathan Lemire and Jake Pearson in New York contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

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mrjoel2u March 20 2014 at 6:44 PM

They should pay him as a security consultant. He should get rewarded. He could have placed a bomb on the roof. Shows you how lax the security really is. Guard was probably texting and eating donuts.

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1 reply
elendil3136 mrjoel2u March 20 2014 at 7:06 PM

Yes, security companies should hire him, but that would be tantamount to admitting that a 16 year-old is smarter than they are. Fat chance of that.

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crystalball2114 March 20 2014 at 5:03 PM

He is quite lucky he didn't get shot.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
mbrheljr March 20 2014 at 5:02 PM

I salute arresting officers for getting the search warrant.

They didn't need it to seize the camera and phone, as they could seize both, incident to the arrest.

But, in order to search the contents of either, a search warrant was necessary.

The intruder's ego that he felt the need to stroke by taking pix will do him in legally.

Good work, boys and girls.

You make "the drug czar of the desert" proud...

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Doug March 20 2014 at 4:52 PM

Just like the 84 year old nun and her two old cronies that cut their way into the Y12 plant in Oak Ridge, paid private security ain't worth a damn they under bid and cut corners to save a buck.

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Big*Daddy March 20 2014 at 4:47 PM

That shet's still not done? Must be all union workers. 1 works while 9 supervise.

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1 reply
jalacey7 Big*Daddy March 20 2014 at 4:59 PM

obviously you have never been on a job site. It's all about hard work on any site union or not. How would I know ? 20+ years in the trades that's how.

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muffin March 20 2014 at 4:46 PM

He eluded "a security guard." I would believe there should be more than 1. However, it does not matter since the teen got through. This should make Americans feel real safe about the new construction. The security is impenetrable--NOT. Yes, the teen broke the law. However, he exposed a serious problem. There is more to this story than what is being reported.

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under duress March 20 2014 at 4:43 PM

I'm glad he was caught and he should be punished....but we also owe him a debt of gratitude. No weak spot should exist, and all security guards or other employees should be held to the highest standards. Really, if this kid was a terroist he could have blown the building up!

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kazema March 20 2014 at 4:39 PM

Just another example that demonstrates that security is mostly PR, not really effective. Where are the electrified fences, laser beams, razor wire, machine gun towers? Macy's has better security!

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naplesmove March 20 2014 at 4:38 PM

During Nov. 1972 I entered the north tower of the World Trade while it was still under construction. I took the elevator to the 44th floor, then entered the stairwell to walk up to door/floor 108 (where Windows on the World used to be) This was at around midnight. The only guard I met was on the way back down the elevator, he asked what type of work I was doing and that it must be triple time, my answer 'construction' like what else ? While at the highest floor (108) still under construction (no walls or ceiling) I realized that I was the highest person on planet Earth connected by a man made object. The wind was about 35mph and the floor was littered with trash. I got down and crawled the last couple of feet to the edge, between two steel posts to take a peak down. IT WAS SURREAL ! I hope my adventure (18yrs. old and had my own apt. in Jersey City) is way past the statue of limitations. Never Forget All the Poor Souls of 9/11 who never made it down. Amen

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donahueg1 March 20 2014 at 4:36 PM

ha ha

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