Houston police discovered a man in a downtown hotel room with weapons and ammunition after he’d allegedly harassed staff while intoxicated. Just a few months after the Las Vegas killing, police were understandably concerned about the possibilities of another attack.
The man, Russell Ziemba, has now made his first court appearance.
Prosecutors shed light about what happened at the Hyatt Regency Downtown and how they say Russell Ziemba, 49, was drunk, harassing guests and an officer who tried to arrest him Sunday.
After Ziemba was asked to leave the hotel, officers escorted him to his room where they found a fully loaded AR 15, other weapons, and bullets.
During the course of the 10 minute court hearing, Eyewitness News learned that an officer was working an extra job as security at the hotel when the manager notified him that Ziemba had been at the hotel for a couple days causing problems with other staff members.
However, the news report also raises questions about just what was going on there.
You see, while Ziemba was apparently causing problems for the staff and the hotel had every right to kick him out, it’s the guns and ammo angle that seems bizarre.
Ziemba was kicked out of the hotel and when the officer escorted him back to his room to gather his belongings, the officer saw several shotgun shells, a handgun and a loaded magazine.
The officer tried to arrest Ziemba, but he refused and the two struggled.
“During the struggle, the defendant used his foot to strike the officer’s right foot and ankle. The officer grabbed and forced the defendant to the ground. He continued to struggle as he was ordered to put his hand behind his back,” prosecutors described in court.
Ziemba faces charges of misdemeanor trespassing and assault of a police officer after police say he kicked an off-duty police officer.
In other words, all seemed to be progressing well enough until the officer saw the firearms, at which point he tried to arrest Ziemba. It was then that Ziemba began to fight back, which was probably not the brightest move he could have made, but I can kind of see why. People do have a tendency to be less than cooperative when they feel they’re being arrested for no good reason.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the concerns. He was checked into a hotel, was apparently fairly high up, and was armed. Following the vicious massacre of concertgoers in Las Vegas, tensions understandably mounted at the sight of the weapons.
Yet still, what about that warranted arrest?
Something is missing here, namely the reason for the arrest at that point.
While I’m far from a legal expert, it sounds like Ziemba was guilty of criminal trespass when he failed to leave the hotel when asked, but he apparently wasn’t under arrest or anything of the sort when he was escorted to his room. It was the sight of weapons that apparently caused the officer to try and arrest Ziemba.
It also sounds like Ziemba had no ill intent by having the weapons in his room.
Law-enforcement officials said Ziemba told them he had planned to celebrate New Year’s Eve and had been “drinking for a few days,” KPRC said, citing the Houston police. Chief Art Acevedo said Ziemba told investigators he brought the weapons to his room because he feared they might be stolen from a truck that he parked in a garage.
A gun show was underway at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston on Sunday, but the police have not said whether Ziemba had visited the show or acquired his weapons from there.
Investigators said they did not think Ziemba intended to use the weapons found in his room. Acevedo said there were no specific threats to Houston ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations getting underway Sunday night. The Hyatt Regency, which was planning festivities of its own, said in a statement:
“The safety and security of our guests and colleagues is our top priority, and consistent with the hotel’s prepared security plans, heightened measures are in place on New Year’s Eve. We are fully cooperating with authorities on an investigation, and further questions should be directed to the Houston Police Department.”
Owning firearms isn’t illegal, and I have been unable to find any law on the books in Texas that bans firearms in hotel rooms.
So, again, why did a police officer arrest Ziemba at that point?
Business Insider claims Ziemba was being arrested “on charges of unlawfully carrying a weapon after they found an AR-15 rifle, a shotgun, a handgun, and ammunition in his top-floor hotel room at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Houston.”
Yet those charges didn’t come up in a story about his arraignment.
Did an officer for a large city police department spy weapons and freak out at that moment?
Ziemba is currently being held on $105,000 bond. Should he meet that bond, he’ll face several stipulations including not possessing any firearms.