Houston police uncovered a small stash of weapons and ammunition Sunday morning after showing up to arrest a drunk man at a downtown hotel that hosts one of the city’s largest New Year’s Eve parties.
After hours of investigating, police charged 49-year-old Russell Lawrence Ziemba with assaulting a peace officer and trespassing.
“This was not Las Vegas,” said an official familiar with the case. “There was not an arsenal.”
Chief Art Acevedo took to Twitter to reinforce that sentiment.
“Situation from this morning at downtown hotel is contained,” he wrote. “No specific threats.”
Staff at the Hyatt Regency Houston initially called for police around 1:30 a.m. for help handling a highly intoxicated man at the hotel bar.
At first, security at the 1200 Louisiana hotel tried sending the argumentative guest to his room, but he started fighting with them, officials said. So security called the Houston police.
The first officer planned to arrest him for trespassing, but discovered the man was drunk and belligerent.
When the officer spotted ammunition lying around Ziemba’s hotel room, he decided to call for backup.
While gathering up the suspect’s belongings, police reportedly found an AR-15, a shotgun and a handgun, with many rounds of ammunition. But it wasn’t immediately clear why Ziemba brought guns and ammo to the hotel, and investigators had to wait for the alcohol to wear off before getting answers.
“He’s intoxicated so they won’t be able to interview him till he’s sobered up a bit,” Lt. Gordon Macintosh said early Sunday. The FBI confirmed it assisting with the case, but declined to offer any statement.
Authorities said they’d found and towed his truck to look for more weapons. Police said they questioned Ziemba until early afternoon.
“Based on limited amount of ammunition, interview and other investigative findings no unlawful intent found,” Acevedo tweeted just after 2 p.m.
An official familiar with the case said it appeared all three guns were legally owned, despite earlier reports to the contrary. Ziemba didn’t make any threats, the official said.
At the time of his arrest, the Tomball man was out on bond following a Dec. 23 misdemeanor arrest for allegedly carrying a handgun in his car, court records show. Previously, he’d been convicted twice for drunk driving.
Hyatt officials said the hotel will still hold its New Year’s Eve party featuring a 50,000-balloon drop at midnight from the top of a 33-story atrium. About 2,000 people are expected to attend.
“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,” hotel manager Tom Netting said in a statement. “We are fully cooperating with authorities on an investigation, and further questions should be directed to the Houston Police Department.”
One Hyatt guest who said he observed the arrest said the hotel didn’t tell him anything about the incident, though the police presence didn’t have much impact on the lobby crowds as patrons came back from nearby bars.
“There wasn’t a big disruption,” said 32-year-old Zedshan Zakir, who had returned from a wedding reception when he spotted a man in cuffs on one side of the atrium.
By mid-morning Sunday, the police presence had died down and the Hyatt lobby was quiet even as the hotel geared up for a big night ahead.
“Heightened security measures, including support from local authorities, are in place and will continue through the hotel’s New Year’s Eve celebration this evening,” the company said in a statement.
Acevedo said Sunday that police and SWAT teams will be heavily deployed throughout the city.
“Proud of officers & Hyatt,” he wrote. “As always be vigilant & report suspicious activity to authorities.”
With amped up security, Houstonians went about their days downtown, some still making plans to attend the celebration.
Kelly Persaud said she anticipated turning out for the hotel’s festivities as she has in years past.
“They caught him,” she said. “You can’t live in fear, right?”
SOUTH FLORIDA VOTER : The chickens were clearly confused as to where the dotted yellow line was leading. The only other option was to cross the line, so they did.
All three of the Democrats running for governor in 2018 support repealing some mandatory minimum sentences, but they differ on exactly which ones to repeal.
Criminal justice reform is going to be a major priority for the Legislature in 2018, even before voters decide whether to replace Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who is running for re-election. The House and Senate both passed versions of a criminal justice bill that, among other things, would eliminate some mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
But where the Democratic candidates stand could be relevant if the House and Senate fail to reach a compromise next year or if activists push for further changes in 2019 or beyond.
Newton Mayor Setti Warren favors a similar policy to what lawmakers are considering: repealing mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. These are typically drug dealers.
“As opposed to putting them in the criminal justice system, let’s put people in treatment,” Warren said.
“What we know is evidence-based research that shows that mandatory minimums do not reduce criminal activity nor does it address the crisis in opioids we have here in the state of Massachusetts,” Warren said.
Former health insurance executive and state budget chief Jay Gonzalez wants to go further and eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences except for murder. These would include firearms crimes, operating under the influence and stalking, which all have mandatory minimums under certain circumstances.
“We should eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences except for murder and let judges do their jobs and take the individual circumstances of every particular case into account in determining the right sentence for that person,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said the current system is not rational. For example, there is no mandatory minimum sentence for rape but there is for less serious offenses.
“The truth is we have them for some and not for others,” Gonzalez said.
He noted that there is also a significant racial disparity, where the people most likely to be hurt by mandatory minimum sentences are black and Hispanic.
Environmentalist and entrepreneur Bob Massie said he opposes mandatory minimum sentences, except “maybe” for the most violent crimes. “Discretion should belong to the judge,” Massie said.
In general, all the Democrats support policies that would result in fewer people being incarcerated.
Warren said it is important that people with nonviolent drug problems are diverted out of the criminal justice system and into treatment. He wants to ensure that people in jail have access to any necessary mental health or substance abuse treatment. And, he said, it is important to provide support services, such as help finding jobs, to people who have been released from jail.
Gonzalez said although Massachusetts has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the U.S., rates are still higher than in many countries. “We need to be focused much more on addressing the underlying causes of crime,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez supports investing more money in diversionary programs and specialty courts to keep people who need services like drug addiction treatment out of the criminal justice system. He supports more programming to help former inmates be successful when they reenter society.
Gonzalez also supports eliminating cash bail and reforming fees and fines to make sure the state is not incarcerating people solely because they are poor.
Massie similarly favors reforming the justice system in ways that lock up fewer people and make it easier for prisoners to rejoin society. “We need to rethink what it is we expect prisons to do — lock people up or move them through a process where they can re-enter society,” Massie said.
Massie wants to see more addiction treatment and education in the prison system. He believes solitary confinement should be eliminated as a “form of torture.”
Warren and Gonzalez both opposed marijuana legalization, but now say the state must act to implement the law as efficiently as possible. Massie supported legalizing marijuana.
PARMA – A Jeep was found wedged between two houses in Parma Friday night.
Police say the 21-year-old driver was found stuck inside the car in the 6000 block of W. 54th Street.
The driver was found to be under the influence and was removed from the car. He was arrested for OVI.
Police say there was structural damage to one of the homes. At the time of the crash, people were inside both houses, but no one was hurt.
Jeremy Froemming, 38, told an officer he took three different types of pills Sunday afternoon.
He crashed into trees near Highway 67 and Highway D in the town of Ottawa at about 1:30 a.m.
Both Froemming and his son were trapped inside.
The boy was flown by Flight for Life to Children’s Hospital, where he remains, but doctors were unable to save his arm.
Court documents show Froemming has three prior OWI offense. He is charged with intoxicated use of a vehicle — great bodily harm and operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated — fourth offense, with a minor child in the vehicle.
The court has six months from the time you plead “not guilty” to hold the trial. However there are some possible extensions beyond this time.
Immanuel Kant : The chicken, being an autonomous being, chose to cross the road of his own free will.
TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WKBW) – A Tonawanda man crashed his car into a brick wall and was charged with DWI after police say he was doing donuts in a parking lot.
Police say 22-year-old Michael Day told them he was “doing donuts and figure 8’s” in the BJ’s parking lot on Young Street Wednesday night when he lost control. He smashed his Ford pickup against a brick retaining wall in the parking lot.
Day told police he had been drinking during the day, and blew a .11% when his BAC was tested. He was charged with DWI and reckless driving.