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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.

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gllfastpitch March 20 2014 at 4:18 PM

"Authorities were still trying to determine the teen's motive"

Really? How about the same reason 16 year old kids climb to the top of a water tower. ..to say they did it. Shocker. Does he deserve to be arrested for trespassing, absolutely but kudo's to the kid for exposing a serious flaw in what should be one of THE most secure buildings in the world considering the history.

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1 reply
tc123242 gllfastpitch March 20 2014 at 4:29 PM

How about a ten dollar an hour security guard in the elevator all night? Simple. 40 mill and they can't get it right.

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onlymdh March 20 2014 at 4:10 PM

Mr. Dunne should be thanking the kid. This could have been someone with really bad intentions instead of a teenager doing a teenage thing.

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1 reply
tc123242 onlymdh March 20 2014 at 4:28 PM

Dunne is going to be done if he keeps this up. As in the top level security the PA is providing at present.

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scottee March 20 2014 at 4:08 PM

A teenager stands accused of pulling off a sensational security breach in one of the world's most closely-watched skyscrapers.

obviously it's not one of the world's most closely-watched skyscrapers.

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1 reply
Skipper scottee March 20 2014 at 4:21 PM

That was a 1 foor opening by- the way!!!! How many grown men could fit into a 1 foot opening?

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jrm0207 March 20 2014 at 4:07 PM

Kid should be considered a hero for pointing out this security issue before someone with bad intentions did.

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BOB March 20 2014 at 4:07 PM

It wasnt a 16 year old that drove airplane into last tower so the point of this story is ?

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gghinmass March 20 2014 at 4:05 PM

Well, just proves that nothing is safe now. You would think the new World Trade Center would be.

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octfd March 20 2014 at 4:05 PM

God help us, cause if a 16 year old can get passed the so called security, we're in for a lot of trouble again. They should terminate the whole security force, there's no excuse whatsoever!

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1 reply
garabian octfd March 20 2014 at 4:11 PM

Agreed. The WHOLE security force should be dismissed from top to bottom.

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usci1 March 20 2014 at 8:30 PM

Ohhh yea! We sure have learned the 'lessons' of 9/11. The Gov't has "improved" security protocols to prevent such a terrorist attack from ever happening again! Yea....... right! Who holds the insurance policy on the new WTC? How much is the payoff for a terrorist attack that will bring it down? Does history repeat itself? The NJ teen Justin should be given 1 million $$$ for testing and showing the security protocols currently in place are with out doubt inefficient. Maybe the NWO guys are the beneficiaries? Just a thought.

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1 reply
skarlsen9 usci1 March 20 2014 at 9:39 PM

too busy watching us citzens to be bothered I guess

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trekkinbob March 20 2014 at 8:35 PM

I hope they don't destroy this young kid's life over this. I remember climbing exposed cinderblocks up the exterior wall of my high school gym back in the day. Made it to the roof but got caught by the janitor who was livid. Took me to the principal's office where everyone acted like I'd just murdered someone. Principal took me into his office, closed the door, looked me in the eyes with an expression that would kill, then promptly cracked a smile. Told me never to do it again and that was the end of it. He knew that I was a good kid into climbing mountains and hiking - not destroying things and blowing them up. Same with this young man. Set him free and stop it with the police state already. They're turning the U.S. into Nazi Germany.

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larrykcory March 20 2014 at 8:35 PM

wow, top notch security!!! 40 million security system wont work with a $8.00 an hour rent a cop running it!!!

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