NEW YORK - A 16-year-old New Jersey boy described as a thrill-seeker bypassed an inattentive security guard in the middle of the night and climbed a ladder to the spire of 1 World Trade Center, where he apparently took pictures, authorities said Thursday.
Justin Casquejo was arrested at 6 a.m. Sunday at the nation’s tallest building and was charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass, police said. Nobody answered the door Thursday at his Weehawken, N.J., home.
According to a criminal complaint, Casquejo was quoted as telling police: “I walked around the construction site and figured out how to access the Freedom Tower rooftop. I found a way up through the scaffolding, climbed onto the 6th floor, and took the elevator up to the 88th floor. I then took the staircase up to 104th [floor]. I went to the rooftop and climbed the ladder all the way to the antenna.”
Casquejo was arrested on the premises, and his camera and cellphone were seized after authorities obtained a search warrant, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police department. The Port Authority owns the trade center site.
According to court papers, Casquejo was released without bail after being arraigned early Monday on one count of third-degree criminal trespass and one count of trespass. His lawyer didn’t immediately return a phone call Thursday seeking comment. Casquejo’s next court date was scheduled for April 2.
Casquejo got onto the construction site of the nearly completed tower through a 1-foot opening in a fence and eluded an inattentive security guard on the 104th floor, Pentangelo said. The guard, who worked for a contractor, not the Port Authority, has been fired, the spokesman said.
The criminal trespass charge is a misdemeanor punishable by up to three months in jail. The simple trespass is a violation punishable by up to 15 days in jail.
The criminal complaint said Casquejo was observed inside the tower beyond numerous posted signs that stated: “Do not enter. No trespassing. Violators will be prosecuted.”
“The defendant knowingly entered and remained unlawfully in a building and upon real property which was fenced and otherwise enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders,” the court papers said.
Patrick Flores, 18, who grew up with Casquejo and lives in the same apartment building as him, described his friend 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. “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.”
“We take security and these types of infractions very seriously and will prosecute violators,” Joe Dunne, chief security officer for the Port Authority, said in a statement. “We continue to reassess our security posture at the site and are constantly working to make this site as secure as possible.”
The tower is scheduled to open later this year.