ST. ALBANS CITY — Police have arrested a man, who shortly after 8:15 a.m. today, tried to enter the U.S. Passport Agency on South Main Street with two large backpacks.
According to St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor, Radu Chereches, 46, initially attempted to enter the office, housed in the former federal building, with the backpacks but was denied entry.
The police chief said Chereches then went next door to Re/Max Destinations, a real estate office, where he told the staff he was a terrorist and wasn’t being allowed to bring his bags into the passport agency. He then asked if he could leave his backpacks in the Re/Max office, said Taylor.
Police arrested Chereches nearby in front of the Handy auto dealership property on Fairfield Street, said Taylor. Fairfield Street was briefly closed between South Main and Church streets.
At press time Chereches was being held at the Vermont State Police barracks in St. Albans and questioned by state and federal law enforcement officers.
“He speaks broken English and is very clearly Middle Eastern,” said Taylor.
Chereches told police he was from Rhode Island, but identification information he carried said Ridgeland, S.C., according to Taylor. Chereches is a naturalized citizen and police are still determining his birth country.
“He did tell the police initially he was a terrorist and he wouldn’t tell us what was in the bags,” said Taylor. “He was uncooperative.”
The bags held only personal possessions, including a sleeping bag.
Chereches later said he was joking about being a terrorist, evidently trying to make a broader point. “He said he was a terrorist and we’re all terrorists,” said Taylor, explaining that the suspect said he felt police were terrorizing him.
Federal agents are still determining what, if any, charges to bring against Chereches. Locally, he will likely be charged with causing a false public alarm, said Taylor, explaining that may be the only violation stipulated under state law in an instance such as this.
Re/Max Destinations Office Manager Khristine Stell was unavailable for comment.