With much of the US undergoing a broad revulsion against Confederate statues in the days since the Charlotesville clashes, it was only a matter of time before someone took matters one step too far. This happened today when a Houston man was arrested on allegations he tried to plant explosives at the statue of Confederate officer Richard Dowling in Hermann Park, according to Chron.com citing law enforcement officials.
Needless to say, the suspect was not fully "with it", and when confronted Saturday night in the park, the man tried to drink the liquid explosives, one of the sources said. The man was not identified by name but the sources said he had previously been convicted in 2014 and given five years probation for storing explosives.
The unnamed man was arrested about 11 p.m. Saturday in the park, a source said, following a day of protests that drew hundreds of people to Sam Houston Park protesting a Spirit of the Confederacy statue. The Saturday event also drew counter-protesters.
The details of the alleged attack emerged as authorities evacuated a block in a Museum District neighborhood near Rice University Monday after finding hazardous materials inside of a house. FBI, ATF, Houston Police on scene near Rice University Houston Police said they were responding to a "special assignment" in the 2000 block of Albans, near Rice University.
The searches on Monday followed an all-night "enforcement operation" led by the FBI, with the Chron reporting the full details:
Residents living on Albans Road, between Hazard and Wilton streets, left their homes about 10 a.m., according to an emergency alert from the city of Houston. The alert warned residents that disposing of the material could cause loud noises, smoke and damage to nearby property.
The source of the commotion was a single house at 2025 Albans, according to the Houston Police Department. Investigators were in and out the house all morning. By 9:15 a.m., FBI agents had set up a blue tent on the front lawn, presumably to review evidence. An agent wheeled a large plastic bin labeled "sample collection" toward the roped-off house.
Larry Satterwhite, an assistant Houston police chief who oversees the Homeland Security command, said "significant hazardous materiels" were found at the home, but didn't say what type they were.
"It's a lot," he said. "There's a significant amount of material in them ... Some very hazardous materials were found."
Around 8:30am on Monday a Hazmat unit arrived with law enforcement personnel wearing shirts including "FBI Technical Hazards Response Unit" and "FBI Evidence Response Team" swarmed the block.
This is not the first time this particular address had been raided for potential explosives:
Federal agents have raided 2025 Albans before. In 2013, a multi-agency team stormed the home owned by Houston art community staple Cecily E. Horton, and her husband, Andrew Schneck. Agents also searched a Memorial-area homed then owned by the couple and a condo in Bryan.
Officials said at the time that the couple's 22-year-old Andrew Cecil Earhart Schneck was the focus of the law enforcement interest. A source initially said the raid was sparked by chemicals that could be used to make nerve gas or tear gas. After combing through all three scenes, the FBI found a military-grade explosive called picric acid at the Memorial area home on Fall River.
The following year, the younger Schneck was sentenced to five years of probation after pleading guilty in federal court to knowingly storing explosives. In 2016, a judge released him from probation ahead of schedule.
As the Chron adds, noted Houston defense attorney Dick DeGuerin lives nearby. He said a fire captain told him this morning he and his wife, who has a broken knee, should evacuate their home. "They just told us to evacuate, and they told us it's pretty bad," DeGuerin said. He said the law enforcement response Monday was "an order of magnitude" greater than the response to the hazmat situation at the same house in 2013.
In that instance, DeGuerin said authorities learned that a young man who lives there with his parents had ordered explosive materials over the internet. Travis Broesche, another neighbor, said he wasn't too concerned by the raid. "I'm appreciative of law enforcement," said Broesche.
And while one hopes that all future statue removal follow the "proper protocol", one can't help but wonder if this incident is just the start of a broader and more violent revulsion to historical US landmarks, controversial or otherwise.