Two Carnegie Mellon University students caught trying to sneak into Heinz Field in the middle of the night -- purportedly to film a music video -- prompted an anti-terrorist response that included pumped-up security at yesterday's Steelers game against the Broncos.
The two young men were being held last night in the Allegheny County Jail on $1 million straight bond each.
Although explosives-sniffing canines found nothing of interest around the football stadium, an affidavit said the dogs registered two separate "positive hits for explosives" in the Lexus sport utility vehicle the men were driving.
What might have fallen under the prank category in pre-9/11 days was treated as anything but that by authorities, who conducted full searches of the students' apartments and heightened security throughout the afternoon around the stadium on the North Shore.
"We take everything seriously, especially in today's light," Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper said at a morning news conference, while the suspects were still being questioned by agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Arrested outside Heinz Field around 2 a.m. yesterday were Sudeep Paul, 21, of Woodbury, N.Y., and Anand Shankar Durvasula, 20, of Morgan Hill, Calif. Chief Harper said they are U.S.-born. Both were charged with criminal conspiracy, and Mr. Durvasula with criminal trespass. The $1 million straight bond has to be paid in full for release.
Heinz Field security officers spotted the men on a security camera trying to enter the stadium, a Steelers spokesman said. They first opened an exterior door at Gate B without going inside, police said. They then took a folding chair to the fence at Gate 5 on Art Rooney Drive, and Mr. Durvasula allegedly stepped up on the chair to scale the fence.
Heinz Field security officers then approached the pair, and as they tried to walk away, they were apprehended by Pittsburgh police officers who had been summoned. They told police initially they were trying to check out the stadium because they had tickets to yesterday's 4:15 p.m. game against the Denver Broncos, Chief Harper said.
He said they told investigators later that Mr. Paul was trying to complete a music video featuring Mr. Durvasula, and they intended to do the last scene inside Heinz Field. A video camera and tripod were found inside the vehicle, parked nearby, which police towed away.
The affidavit said the vehicle was registered to Paul Swapan Kumar, 41, of Woodbury, N.Y., but it could have meant Kumar Paul, as police initially referred to Sudeep Paul as Paul Sudeep.
"We don't know exactly what their intentions were," Chief Harper said. But, he said, it was unwise for them to attempt to break into the stadium at about 2 a.m. There was no evidence the men had been drinking, he said.
Kumar Paul, who was unaware of the son's troubles, said he gave his son the Lexus.
"He's such a good kid," said Mr. Paul. "He's a bright student and an honor student."
Last month, a Wisconsin man was charged with making a terrorist threat over the Internet for threatening that radioactive "dirty bombs" would be detonated at seven football stadiums.
The nature of yesterday's incident led to extra precautions surrounding the Steelers-Broncos game, which was played without incident. Chief Harper said the quick response that resulted in the men being detained showed that security arrangements "are very well up to speed," and not something to worry the public.
"We have taken steps to make sure Heinz Field is secure," Chief Harper said. "We have brought in extra canine dogs from Lawrence, Mercer and Beaver counties to conduct a sweep of the facility. ... We have brought in additional officers as well as state police, county police and the FBI."
Steelers spokesman Dave Lockett said fans attending the game were to receive the same kind of pat-downs from security staff as is customary for all games. He said it was the first such incident he was aware of at Heinz Field, and fans should still feel safe in attending.
"The only thing that needs to be said was that the security system worked in getting things done quickly," Mr. Lockett said.
Police described the two men as cooperative throughout, agreeing to a police search of their off-campus residences in Squirrel Hill.
A Carnegie Mellon spokeswoman declined comment on the incident, other than to confirm both men are seniors at the school, with Mr. Paul a business student and Mr. Durvasula in the humanities and social sciences program.
University-related Web sites suggest that both men have been active, involved students. Mr. Paul is listed as activities director of the Undergraduate Finance Association, and Mr. Durvasula as a committee chairman of the Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Association. Both also were involved in Carnegie Mellon's Mock Trial competition, a program in which students take on judicial roles to practice their speaking and analytical skills.
Mr. Paul, on his own Web home page, lists his grade point average as 3.7 out of 4.0. He made the dean's list last spring.Tony Tye, Post-Gazette
Sudeep Paul, above, 21, of Woodbury, N.Y., and Anand Shankar Durvasula, below, 20, of Morgan Hill, Calif., are arraigned last night after the two Carnegie Mellon University students were accused of trying to sneak into Heinz Field early yesterday.
Gary Rotstein can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1255.