HOUSTON — Federal officials have arrested and charged a man accused of attempting to blow up a Confederate statute in Hermann Park, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Andrew Cecil Earhart Schneck, 25, is charged with attempting to maliciously damage or destroy property receiving federal funding. If convicted, Schneck faces a minimum of five and up to 40 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
Investigators said a park ranger saw Schneck kneeling among the bushes in front of the Gen. Dowling Monument on Aug. 19. Schneck was allegedly holding two small boxes with various items inside to include what appeared to be duct tape and wires. After placing the boxes on the ground per the ranger’s request, Schneck then allegedly took a drink from plastic bottle but immediately spit it on the ground. The ranger then noticed a timer and wires in the box and notified the Houston Police Department, officials said.
The clear liquid was field tested as was a white powdery substance found in a small, black aluminum tube, which were revealed to be likely Nitroglycerin and Hexamethylene Triperoxide Diamine, according to the charges.
HMTD is a high explosive organic compound used as an initiating, or primary explosive. Nitroglycerin has been used as an active ingredient in the manufacture of explosives. ln its pure form, nitroglycerin is a contact explosive with physical shock causing it to explode, which degrades over time to even more unstable forms. Nitroglycerin is highly dangerous to transport or use. ln its undiluted form, it is one of the world's most powerful explosives.
Investigators said Schneck has conducted "chemistry experiments" inside his home.
On Monday, residents near the Rice University area were being forced to evacuate their neighborhood Monday morning after hazardous material was found inside the suspect's home.
“Out of an abundance of caution we've pushed back a fairly significant perimeter. There's a significant amount of material in there. We're even doing reverse 911 in the area because of the anticipated detonations that you will hear if you're close,” said the Assistant Chief over Homeland Security for the Houston Police Department, Larry Satterwhite.
To ensure the safety of nearby residents and the public, the FBI, HPD, ATF, and City of Houston emergency personnel evacuated the area of Albans Road between Hazard Street and Wilton Street, as well as an alleyway immediately south between those streets in southwest Houston.
“Incidents like this are a reminder to us that we can not do our job alone. We have to work with a partnership in the community to make sure we all remain alert and vigilant, to any suspicious activity that may come about,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Deron Ogletree.
Schneck was previously accused of explosive-related charges in 2013. He plead guilty to “not conforming to storage of explosive materials" and he had to pay a fine of $160,000.
“He's a brilliant kid from everything I’ve heard about him, his mother and father are fine people. But he's autistic and he gets on the internet, you know the FBI knows everything you do. If you're texting on your phone right now they know it,” said neighborhood resident and famed attorney Dick DeGuerin.
The FBI and its law enforcement partners worked together to safely and properly dispose of the hazardous materials through a series of controlled detonations.
Due to the volatile nature of the hazardous materials, residents were warned that the detonations could create loud noises and smoke with the potential to damage property. The safety of the public and law enforcement involved is the city's top priority.