Police: N.J. teen bypasses guard, reaches WTC spire

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NEW YORK -- A teenage thrill-chaser slipped through a fence, eluded a security guard and climbed to the top of 1 World Trade Center, authorities said Thursday, as concerns swirled about the audacious breach at what is supposed to be one of the world's most secure sites.

Justin Casquejo, 16, of Weehawken, N.J., described by a friend as an adventure-seeker who loves to climb precarious places, spent about two hours early Sunday atop the symbolic and as-yet-unfinished 1,776-foot tower, authorities said. He apparently just wanted bragging rights and perhaps some photos.

But the alleged escapade stirred what-ifs about the notion of someone with a more sinister agenda infiltrating the nation's tallest skyscraper. "Obviously, it was shocking and troubling," said Mayor Bill de Blasio, "and I don't know how possibly it could have happened."

Joe Dunne, security chief of the bi-state Port Authority that has jurisdiction over the building, said officials "take security and these types of infractions very seriously."

The youth was being held without bail after an arraignment Monday on criminal trespassing. His lawyer, Pamela Griffith, declined to comment. .

The boy told police that he simply walked around the construction site and found a way through scaffolding about 4 a.m., according to a court complaint. He squeezed through a one-foot opening in a fence, said Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police spokesman Joe Pentangelo. The authority owns the site.

The court complaint quotes the teen saying he climbed to the sixth floor, rode an elevator to the 88th and then took stairs to the 104th. There, he slid past an inattentive security guard, a private contractor employee who has since been fired, Mr. Pentangelo said.

The boy told police, "I went to the rooftop and climbed the ladder all the way to the antenna," according to the complaint.

WABC-TV reported that he took pictures from atop the building; authorities said they were still trying to determine his motive. He was arrested on site, and his camera and cell phone were seized after authorities obtained a search warrant, Mr. Pentangelo said.

Patrick Flores, 18, a neighbor who grew up with the arrested youth, described him as "a really good kid" who has always been highly interested in adventure. "He was always the one climbing the cliffs, doing something stupid," Mr. Flores said, referring to cliffs on which Weehawken sits, across the Hudson River from Manhattan, with clear views of the World Trade Center and the rest of Manhattan's skyline.

"But that was him; that was his life," Mr. Flores said. "I've seen him fall and hit his head and get up and walk away like it was nothing."

Mr. Flores said the boy had recently become interested in parkour, an extreme sport that combines elements of martial arts, gymnastics and rock climbing and has become popular through YouTube videos of acrobatic athletes vaulting around public outdoor obstacles such as park benches, guardrails and buildings.

If he was looking for bragging rights, Justin Casquejo couldn't have picked a more appropriate building. Throughout its reconstruction since the Sept. 11 attacks, the building once known as the Freedom Tower has been enmeshed in elaborate security proposals.

Ultimately, plans call for a $40 million system of barriers and checkpoints around the 16-acre trade center, which includes several towers, the Sept. 11 memorial, a transit hub and other features.

Most of that security structure has yet to be built.


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