#Breaking Russell L. Ziemba, 49, arrested at @HyattHouston after guns found in room, struggle w/ off-duty @houstonpolice officer. Cops don't think Ziemba intended to use guns, cops say he put them in room for safe keeping. HPD: he admitted to drinking for "couple of days" #khou11 pic.twitter.com/RKJO3LZmX9— Melissa Correa (@MCorreaKHOU) December 31, 2017
Police in Houston, Texas, arrested a man on charges of unlawfully carrying firearms in his top-floor hotel room — but then called it a false alarm.
Russell Lawrence Ziemba, 49, caused a stir when he showed up at the Hyatt Regency hotel’s lobby shortly after midnight. The man got drunk while drinking at the hotel bar and started harassing guests. An off-duty police officer, moonlighting as a security guard, told Ziemba to go up to his room but the man soon returned to the lobby and got into a physical altercation with the officer. Ziemba was taken back to his room and the hotel manager told him to pack his bags and leave. However, when the officer escorted him to the top-floor, he saw an arsenal of guns inside the man’s baggage, according to Houston Police Lt. Gordon Macintosh.
It was then the officer called for backup. Cops found an AR-15 rifle — notorious for being used in several mass shooting — a handgun, a shotgun and many rounds of ammunition.
Police said Ziemba told them he did not intend to use the guns for any nefarious reasons but only wanted to celebrate New Year’s Eve and had been “drinking for a few days.” He said he only brought the weapons from his truck, parked in the garage, because he was afraid they might be stolen. According to NBC News, police said Ziemba was extremely “depressed” when he was arrested. He also recently had domestic relations problems and had to remove his possessions, including his guns, from his home.
A gunshow was being held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston but police have not confirmed whether the man had bought his weapons from there.
The Hyatt was hosting a New Year’s Eve party featuring a 50,000-balloon drop and live performances.
Police arrested Ziemba and said the man could face charges for assaulting a police officer as well as trespassing on the lobby — but dismissed charges for carrying firearms because Texas laws allow open carry. In fact, the police now completely believe Ziemba — who got drunk while there was an arsenal in his room, who reportedly had domestic issues and who assaulted an officer — had no intention of using his guns at all. How they came to that conclusion remains a mystery.
Hyatt suspect interview concluded. Placed firearms in hotel room for safekeeping while. Based on limited amount of ammunition, interview & other investigative findings no unlawful intent found. Suspect has been booked & charged with assaulting Peace Officer & trespassing.— Chief Art Acevedo (@ArtAcevedo) December 31, 2017
Perhaps if the man was, say, an Arab, the cops would not have so easily given him the benefit of the doubt. In fact, it’s not completely certain whether a Muslim with a bag full of arsenal would have been able to leave the room alive. But that’s what comes of white privilege: a white man committing a crime (or suspected of committing a crime) is allowed to walk away with a slap on the wrist (sometimes, not even that) while a non-white person experiences the full brunt of the law (and sometimes, even worse).
What’s shocking about the cops believing Ziemba intentions were innocent is the fact the incident closely resembles the circumstances surrounding the Las Vegas massacre, just three months ago, when domestic terrorist Stephen Paddock fired on an open concert resulting in the deaths of 58 civilians and injuries to almost 600 others. The man committed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino with firearms, including an AR-15 rifle, before killing himself.
The Hyatt Regency’s managing director Tom Netting wrote in a statement that “heightened security measures are in place” and would remain until the party ends in the early hours of Jan 1, 2018.
“The safety and security of our guests and colleagues is our top priority, and consistent with the hotel’s prepared security plans, heightened measures are in place on New Year’s Eve,” he said.
Houston Police Department spokesman Victor Senties the investigation was ongoing but “kudos to our officers because they actually prevented what could have been a pretty dangerous situation tonight.”
Thumbnail/Banner : Reuters