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(Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Police Officers Find a Man of Middle Eastern Appearance Behaving Suspiciously in the North Tower

Clifford Allen.Clifford Allen. [Source: New York Daily News]Officers belonging to New York Police Department’s elite Emergency Service Unit (ESU) who are making their way out of the North Tower of the World Trade Center encounter a man of Middle Eastern appearance who is behaving very suspiciously and subsequently arrest him. [Appel, 2009, pp. 125-128] The ESU officers were on the 31st floor of the North Tower when the South Tower collapsed, at 9:59 a.m. (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). A colleague who was outside at the time of the collapse promptly radioed them to say what had happened and instruct them to get out of the building. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004; PoliceOne, 9/9/2011]
Suspicious Man Is Apparently Slipping Back into the Tower - As the officers are making their way down the stairs, one of them, Detective Timothy Morley, overhears transmissions coming over the radios of the firefighters he passes about a “suspicious man” who has been ignoring the Fire Department’s orders and is “talking gibberish on his cell phone.” As they approach the 21st floor, Morley and his colleagues encounter this man. They see him watching firefighters going down the stairs and, once he is sure they have gone, slowly making his way into the stairwell. They find it odd that someone is apparently sneaking back into the building while it is being evacuated.
Man Refuses to Say Who He Is - Morley asks the man what he is doing. The man turns around and the ESU officers see that he is about 40 years old, is well dressed, wearing a suit and tie, and has an olive complexion, dark hair, and dark eyes. They think he looks Middle Eastern. He is holding a leather valise in front of him. Morley asks him, “Do you work here?” but the man just stands still and says nothing. Morley then asks, “Who are you?” and again the man says nothing. Suddenly, the man opens his valise and pulls out a white, fluffy, stuffed toy rabbit and shoves it into Morley’s face. Another officer, David Norman, knocks the toy rabbit out of the man’s hand and onto the floor.
Officers Think the Man's Phone May Be a Detonator Device - A few firefighters who are coming down the stairs see the man and ask the ESU officers: “What’d we got? A terrorist?” In response, the man says, menacingly: “You want to know who I am? Let me show you.” He then reaches for a cell phone that is hooked to his belt. Seeing the man’s fingers just an inch from the phone’s keypad, Morley shouts out, “You’re not pressin’ any buttons!” Concerned that the cell phone might be a detonator device, Morley, Norman, and another ESU officer, Clifford Allen, snatch it off the man and toss it onto the floor.
Senior Officer Wants the Man to Be Taken out of the Tower - By this time, more people have come down the stairs and are watching the commotion. Among them are two civilians who work on the 65th floor. Someone asks them if they recognize the suspicious man. They have a good look at him and say, “He’s not from that floor,” referring to the 21st floor. Deciding now that the man doesn’t belong in the building, ESU Lieutenant Venton Hollifield orders: “Get this guy outta here. We’ll find out what he is and who he is later.” A Port Authority Police Department sergeant who is on the stairs starts gathering up the man’s belongings, but when he goes to pick up the toy rabbit, Morley orders him to leave it where it is.
Man Goes into a Rage and Is Then Arrested - The ESU officers then start escorting the man down the stairs. But a couple of flights down, he goes into a rage and tries to get past them to run back upstairs. He starts swearing while flailing his arms, and punching and kicking at the officers. The officers are easily able to restrain him, but at this point Hollifield instructs Morley to arrest him. Morley does so and handcuffs the man behind his back. The man then quietens down and everyone is able to continue down the stairs. But occasionally the man makes an outrageous statement. For example, he says, “I was a soldier in my country” and when he is asked what his country is, he replies, “The Ukraine,” even though he doesn’t look Ukrainian.
Man Laughs When He Sees the Destruction outside the Tower - When the ESU officers reach the plaza level, they see the devastation caused by the collapse of the South Tower through the windows. But while everyone else is shocked at what they see, the suspicious man giggles and says: “Look at the fire. Nice, nice fire.” [Appel, 2009, pp. 125-129] Morley and Hollifield will escort the man away from their colleagues and eventually pass him on to the FBI. However, a man in a dark suit—apparently some kind of government agent—will subsequently instruct Morley to keep quiet about the strange man he’d arrested in the North Tower (see After 10:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Appel, 2009, pp. 131, 173-175] Curiously, considering that the suspicious man threatened the ESU officers with a toy stuffed rabbit, a week later, the New York State Police will be warned that terrorists might try to get bombs onto commercial planes by hiding them inside stuffed toys. But the man’s toy rabbit will never be recovered from the rubble of the North Tower and therefore is not examined to see if it contains explosives. [Appel, 2009, pp. 340]

Entity Tags: Clifford Allen, New York City Police Department, David Norman, Timothy Morley, Venton Hollifield

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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