A Texas man was arrested after authorities said he was caught with explosive materials near a confederate monument he allegedly planned to destroy.
A park ranger on patrol spotted Andrew Schneck, 25, kneeling among the bushes in front of the statue of Confederate Lt. Dick Dowling on the median strip of Hermann Park in Houston about 11:05 p.m. Saturday, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court.
When the ranger asked Schneck to come out of the bushes and put down the two small boxes he was holding, he instead tried drinking from a plastic bottle filled with a clear liquid that was in one of the boxes, officials said.
But he couldn’t get the liquid down and immediately spit it out, opting instead to pour the rest of the liquid on the ground, the complaint said.
That’s when the park ranger noticed a timer and wires inside one of the boxes. She called the Houston Police Department, which brought in the bomb squad.
Schneck allegedly told the ranger he wanted to harm the statue, saying he didn’t “like that guy,” the complaint said.
The bomb squad assessed the boxes and its contents, including a white powder and the clear liquid.
Field tests showed the clear liquid was most likely nitroglycerin, which, in its pure form, is a contact explosive, and in its undiluted form, is one of the world’s most powerful explosives, investigators said.
Officials said the white power was most likely HMTD, or hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, a highly explosive organic compound used as an initiating or primary explosive.
A timer, wires connected to a homemade detonator and a battery were also found inside the boxes, which authorities said were the making of “a viable explosive device.”
Investigators said Schneck told them he had other chemicals at his Rice University home, where he lived with his mother.
Schneck’s mother said her son used the property adjacent to their home, which she also owned, to “conduct his chemistry experiments,” the complaint said.
Law enforcement evacuated the entire Rice University neighborhood to clear the family’s property, in which they said they found a cache of high-powered explosives.
Schneck was charged Monday with attempting to maliciously damage or destroy property and was ordered into federal custody — as the park where the Dowling monument is located receives federal funding for its maintenance — pending a court hearing later in the week.
In 2014, Schneck pleaded guilty in federal court to knowingly storing explosives and was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to pay $159,087 in restitution.
The sentencing came one year after federal agents suspecting Schneck had chemicals that could be used to make nerve gas or tear gas found picric acid, a military-grade explosive, in his family’s home.
While on probation, Schneck majored in chemistry and earned a bachelor’s degree at Austin College.
“Schneck is not a risk to public safety nor is there a history of violence," his lawyers argued at the time, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Schneck’s actions to allegedly destroy the Dowling monument came as Confederate statutes across the country have become a source of contention and inspiration for protest.
Several protestors were arrested for allegedly tearing down the Confederate Soldiers Monument outside the old Durham County Courthouse in Durham, N.C.
In Baltimore, Md., Mayor Catherine Pugh ordered the removal of four Confederate monuments across the city, where contractors with cranes lifted the statues off their pedestals in the middle of the night.
Four statues honoring Confederate figures — Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnson, John Reagan and James Stephen Hogg — located on the University of Texas at Austin campus, were also removed overnight in an effort to denounce white supremacy.
“The historical and cultural significance of the Confederate statues on our campus — and the connections that individuals have with them — are severely compromised by what they symbolize,” University of Texas President Greg Fenves said in a statement. “Erected during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation, the statues represent the subjugation of African-Americans. That remains true today for white supremacists who use them to symbolize hatred and bigotry.”
The 112-year-old statue that Schneck is accused of trying to remove memorializes Richard “Dick” Dowling, an Irish-born business man who served as a Confederate commander at the Second Battle of Sabine Pass in the Civil War.
Though critics have called for the removal of the statue, which was the city’s first publicly financed monument, many railed against Schneck’s alleged actions.
“A terrorist almost struck in Houston under the false guise of destroying the Dowling confederate statue in Hermann Park,” Black Lives Matter Houston wrote on Facebook. “Had this terrorist got his way, many people would have been hurt and there would have been extensive damage. This is not how we operate, and if you want the statue gone, get some rope then pull it down. A statue can come down without nitroglycerin and loss of life.”
If convicted of the crime in which he has been charged, Schneck could face up to 40 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.