An apparent chemistry buff is in federal custody after a Houston park ranger approached him as he was allegedly intending to use incendiary materials to desecrate a statue of a Confederate commander because he didn’t like the man depicted.
Andrew Schneck, 25, was brought before a federal magistrate judge today and held pending a detention hearing after the ranger on patrol at around 11 p.m. Saturday spotted him "kneeling among bushes" directly in front of the Gen. Dowling Monument inside Houston’s Hermann Park and holding two boxes, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
He is charged with attempting to maliciously damage or destroy by explosive, property owned by any organization that receives federal financial assistance, according to the complaint. It’s unclear whether he has entered a plea.
Hermann Park receives federal funding for maintenance, which is why the case landed in Houston federal court.
When the ranger quizzed Schneck about whether he was a city worker, the man, according to the complaint, "did not answer."
The ranger ordered Schneck to "come out of the bushes," the complaint states.
As Schneck surrendered both boxes, the complaint adds, he plucked a bottle "full of clear liquid" from one of the boxes and took a swig.
The complaint goes on to state how Schneck "proceeded to drink from the bottle, then immediately spit the liquid to the ground next [to] him."
The man, according to the complaint, then emptied the bottle by pouring its contents on "the ground next to him."
The ranger allegedly then took a quick inventory of the contents in the boxes and, according to the complaint, discovered duct tape and wires.
When asked whether he wanted to harm the memorial and why, Schneck replied in the affirmative because he didn’t "like that guy," according to the complaint.
The ranger then contacted the Houston Police Department, which notified the bomb squad.
Subsequently, when bomb squad members arrived they field-tested a "clear liquid and a white powder that was present in a small, black aluminum tube" measuring approximately one-inch long, the complaint states.
Preliminary results of the liquid, the complaint states, "indicate that the clear liquid was most likely nitroglycerin" and the powder, authorities believe, is hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD).
The prosecutors contend each are highly unstable and "highly dangerous" ingredients and frequently used to assemble explosive devices. HMTD is used, the complaint states, "as an initiating, or primary explosive" while nitroglycerin, "in its undiluted form, is one of the world’s most powerful explosives."
The confiscated boxes, according to the complaint, were assessed and the bomb squad members confirmed that its contents "were capable to produce a viable explosive device."
Schneck was then arrested and he told police "he had other chemicals at his home," according to the complaint.
The man’s court appearance came two days after he was brought into custody and a day after FBI investigators raided his home, which he shares with his mother.
The findings compelled the authorities to cut power to Schneck’s home and request voluntary evacuations from neighbors, according to city police.
When authorities questioned Schneck’s mother, they say, she told them her son was in bed "as of 8:30 p.m. on the night" when he was allegedly caught in the park with the dangerous materials.
The complaint further alleges that Schneck conducts “chemistry experiments” at his Houston residence, according to the U.S. attorney.
If convicted, Schneck faces a minimum of five and up to 40 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
The Gen. Richard “Dick” Dowling memorial is made of Italian marble, stands 8-feet and is positioned on a 20-foot granite base.
The city of Houston celebrated the statue centennial in 2005 for being its first public monument, but it and a street in Dowling’s name have come under scrutiny in recent years, as Houston entered the civil rights era, library researchers from Rice University in Houston write.
Dowling was a saloon merchant of Irish descent, a recent Houstonia magazine article noted.
He was also one of the pioneers to utilize gas lighting and a charter member of Houston Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, according to the Texas Historical Commission’s plaque at the monument.
His most notable feats during the Civil War came Sep. 8, 1863, when he and his spare outfit were severely outnumbered in one of the battles at Sabine Pass along the border of Texas and Louisiana.
They managed to hold Fort Griffin and ward off a Union invasion fit with 27 troopships and 5,000 Union men, the plaque reads.
Under Dowling’s command, the monument’s passage also adds, his “Irish Davis Guard” of Confederate soldiers who reportedly took less than an hour to stop the gunboats, took the Union opposition as prisoners and confiscated their weapons.
The victory established Dowling as a Confederate hero, earning him and his men silver medal accommodations and praise by the Confederate Congress as "one of the most brilliant … achievements … of this war."