Judge: SA court break-in may have been prank

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Associated Press

Posted on October 19, 2011 at 11:04 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 19 at 2:57 PM

SAN ANTONIO -- Five foreign nationals traveling the country in a rented RV broke into a San Antonio courthouse early Wednesday, authorities said, triggering a heavy police response that summoned FBI agents and bomb-sniffing dogs before officials suggested the men could be harmless pranksters.

Some of the men, all in their 20s, wore sombreros and seemed to wield a gavel while running through the courthouse before getting caught, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. Authorities said they had no weapons and didn’t immediately appear dangerous.

The identities or nationalities of the men weren’t immediately released, but officials found 90-day visas in their rented RV. Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz said some of them arrived in New York last month and drove the vehicle to Florida, where the others joined them.

"It’s just very strange," Wolff said. "If it was some kids in the neighborhood, you’d think it was a prank."

Authorities said the men, who were expected to be charged with burglary, spoke little English but were cooperating with authorities through the help of a translator.

Wolff chuckled at times while describing what may have been a prank, which apparently began with some of the group entering the courthouse through a fire escape. Three of the men were caught inside, and two were outside near the RV.

The mood was far more serious around the Bexar County Courthouse when police arrested the men about 1:30 a.m. Officers called in bomb-sniffing dogs, FBI agents were brought to the scene, and downtown streets were blocked off.

Authorities also searched the nearby convention center, where dozens of top U.S. intelligence officials are attending a conference. Michael Vickers, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, was scheduled to speak there Wednesday along with Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, chief of U.S. Strategic Command.

Ortiz said authorities were waiting on a search warrant to comb the RV more thoroughly. Investigators said they already had found the visas, maps, cell phones and computers.

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