Ithaca, N.Y. – A Cornell student looked out the window of her Collegetown apartment to find another student standing on her roof, holding a fire extinguisher. Her housemates called the police.
The rooftop climber, 21-year-old Brian O’Connor of New City, N.Y., would be arrested on May 15 shortly after police responded at about 8 p.m.
O’Connor was accused of removing a fire extinguisher from its holder, walking on the roof of the Collegetown house and on fire escapes along the building.
Police say O’Connor unlawfully entered the house with the intent to commit a crime, noting that he possessed purple latex gloves “commonly used for committing offenses involving forcible entry.” They also say he recklessly damaged a screen door on the property.
But O’Connor told police that he thought he was invited to the apartment building and that he does not remember holding a fire extinguisher. He portrayed the incident as the result of his confusion, not intent to steal.
The courts will now decide which story is more credible. O’Connor will appear for trial on July 9 on charges of second-degree burglary, a Class C felony; possession of burglar’s tools, a Class A misdemeanor; and criminal mischief in the fourth degree, a Class A misdemeanor.
O’Connor told police that he was invited by a man he met at Loco Cantina, a restaurant and bar located on Stewart Avenue. The man told O’Connor to meet him at an unknown apartment.
“It is obvious that the address the man gave me was incorrect,” O’Connor later said, according to records. The address he was given was “maybe One Zero something.”
He entered the building on East Seneca Street and went to the top floor. While walking in, O’Connor saw people sitting in the living room, he said.
“I waved, and they did not make any attempt to stop me from entering the apartment,” O’Connor said.
He then went to the top floor, where — according to O’Connor — he accidentally entered a female’s room.
“I nervously exited the window of that room onto the fire escape because I was too embarrassed,” O’Connor said in his statement.
“I then noticed that there was no way off the roof, so I went back inside the same window. I exited and attempted to leave the house all together.”
O’Connor climbed back through the apartment window. When he tried to leave the house, he was then confronted by the residents, who said they were going to call the police.
O’Connor later testified to the police that he had four or five drinks that evening. He did not remember taking the fire extinguisher or damaging a window screen, he said in his statement.
When asked by the police about rubber gloves in his possession, O’Connor said the gloves were in his pockets the entire time and no one saw him with gloves on. When asked why he had the gloves, O’Connor stated he was “cleaning out my friend’s apartment and my own apartment.”
Statement from first witness
The information provided by the witnesses who were in the house on East Seneca Street contradicts much of what O’Connor said.
One girl who lived in the house said she opened up her blinds and saw O’Connor standing on the roof. According to her, O’Connor was wearing purple rubber gloves and holding a fire extinguisher.
“He seemed disoriented and was very incoherent,” she said, according to records.
“I asked him what he was doing and the subject replied he was visiting his girlfriend.”
The resident told O’Connor to leave. As she began to close her window, he threw the fire extinguisher through it, she said.
Statement from second witness
The second witness, another resident at the house, said she saw O’Connor enter the building.
“I didn’t recognize the guy but I thought it may have been one of my friend’s boyfriends,” she said.
When she saw O’Connor a second time, he was walking down the stairs, being followed by a group of her friends. This second witness also said O’Connor was wearing purple latex gloves.
O’Connor was “saying he thought his grandmother lived here and his grandmother fell asleep,” the girl said.
The group threatened to call the police. That’s when O’Connor started running down East Seneca Street, the resident said.
After the incident, the witness said she observed two busted window screens on the third floor of the house.
“I also observed the fire extinguisher from the third floor was missing from the fire extinguisher bracket,” she said.
Statement from the third witness
The third witness said she saw O’Connor on the second floor of the house when he was walking down the stairs, after coming off the roof and trying to leave.
“The male said he was looking for his grandmother and then said he was looking for his friend right after that,” the third witness said.
The witness also noticed O’Connor’s gloves.
“My friends asked him what he was doing and the male looked alarmed and immediately took his gloves off,” she said.
“My friend… said for someone to call the police, and that is when [O’Connor] became very alarmed and he said ‘Check my pockets, I don’t have anything!” the girl said.