UPDATE: The two men detained Sunday night near Picatinny Arsenal have been charged with unlawfully photographing the installation, authorities said.
Picatinny police spotted the two men outside the Picatinny gates Sunday afternoon and asked them to leave, according to Tonya Townsell, a Picatinny spokeswoman.
The two left, but were spotted a second time photographing the installation, so the officers called in back-up from local police departments, Townsell said.
Townsell said the men never entered the base and were first spotted in the area arond the visitor’s center, which is closed on weekends.
The two men were detained while their tan SUV was searched on Route 15, alongside a grassy divide that separates southbound Route 15 from a small side street, West Union Turnpike.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, Rockaway Township Police and the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office assisted in the investigation.
Two men were released from police custody this morning after they took photos of Picatinny Arsenal Sunday afternoon, an incident that led to Route 15 in Morris County being shut for three hours last night.
A Picatinny policeman saw the two men taking pictures near the front gate of the Army base about 4 p.m. Sunday, the base commander Brig. Gen. William Phillips said this morning. The officer told the men, who had asked where the PX was, that it is against the law to take pictures of the post, a weapons research and development facility in Rockaway Township, and asked them to leave.
The men left, but were stopped a short time later on Route 15 north after the Picatinny officer saw them continuing to take photographs.
The men were detained while their car was searched, Phillips said. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, Rockaway Township Police and the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office assisted in the investigation, Phillips said.
Route 15 was closed in case there was “something hazardous in the vehicle,” Phillips said.
The men told authorities a friend who grew up in the area asked them to take pictures to see how the area had changed, Phillips said.
“They looked at the laptop to see if there is anything suspicious,” Phillips said. “Everything they told police checked out.”
“At no time was anyone on Picatinny in any kind of danger nor did anyone get inside our facility,” Phillips said. “We take security very seriously on the installation.”
Two people are being detained after being taken into custody near the Picatinny Arsenal and authorities are investigating photos taken around the area of the base late Sunday afternoon. One witness, according to the Daily Record, reported seeing an official using what appeared to be a Geiger counter near the seen. This has not been confirmed by officials. (See Article Below)
We will continue to update this story as details become available.
Authorities closed a span of Route 15 South near the Rockaway Township-Wharton border around 4:30 p.m., where FBI agents, state, county and local police gathered around a tan Nissan Pathfinder with New Jersey license plates.
The suspect vehicle may have been used by two individuals who fled after being spotted taking photos that piqued the interest of the Department of Defense, said Robyn D’Onofrio, a spokeswoman for the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office. The section of the shoulder where the SUV apparently stopped runs alongside a grassy divide that separates southbound Route 15 from a small side street, West Union Turnpike.
The SUV, which had a small, white, bumper sticker that said “I Love Israel” on the rear bumper, was towed away around 7:45 p.m. Diapers were visible in the trunk near a pair of flip-flops and other items, and a box of baby wipes apparently had been placed on the street with other items from the vehicle.
The investigation into the content of the photos is ongoing and is being led by the Department of Defense, according to the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office.
At about 4:30 p.m., a State Police trooper asked Edward Weissman to stay in the house he was in on West Union Turnpike. Weissman said he later saw an official using what appeared to be a Geiger counter, a device used to measure radiation, around the SUV.
Toni Kelly, 40, of Wharton was driving home with her 7-year-old twins around 5:30 p.m. when she was diverted off Route 15, adding about a half hour to her trip.
“It was horrible,” Kelly said. “A police officer that was blocking traffic wouldn’t say anything, and I was just thinking that maybe someone who escaped (from the base) and was running around our neighborhood. My heart sinks even thinking there could have been terrorist actions taken at Picatinny. It’s a scary world out there.”
The military base is situated on 6,500 acres in northwest New Jersey, and is accessible shortly off of northbound Route 15. The motto on the Picatinny Arsenal’s Web site is “Home of American Fire Power.”
“Picatinny plays a unique role in the United States’ ability to wage war,” according to Picatinny’s Web site. “There is no other comprehensive armaments facility like it in the country; it is a one-of-a-kind facility that provides virtually all of the lethal mechanisms used in Army weapon systems and those of the other military services.”
Star Ledger also has a small article