Magazine article American Libraries

Patron's Tip Leads to Internet User's Arrest. (News Front)

Magazine article American Libraries

Patron's Tip Leads to Internet User's Arrest. (News Front)

Article excerpt

Acting on a tip from a retired police officer, police arrested a British man who was thought to be looking at bombmaking Web sites at the Punta Gorda (Fla.) Public Library July 29 and evacuated the building for four hours when they discovered suspicious liquids in his backpack.

Nigel Berkeley Gates, 45, of London, was being held at Charlotte County Jail on obstruction charges after giving a false name during questioning. Gates, whose visa expired 11 years ago, is expected to be deported by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Department.

Gates had been living at a homeless shelter for the previous month. He told police the bottles contained paint thinner and jewelry cleaner he used to clean cars.

David Myers, a volunteer deputy for the Charlotte County Sheriffs Office, contacted police after observing Gates's online search. Police later reported that the suspicious sites included one that depicted an ancient device called the "Baghdad Battery." Other sites were devoted to alternative medicine.

While accompanying his wife, who was picking up a book at the library, Myers decided to follow up what a friend had told him the previous day: "I got a tip from a concerned citizen on a lot of Middle Easterners using computers at libraries," he told the August 3 Charlotte Sun-Herald.

Police spokesman Lt. Jason Ciaschini told the July 30 Fort Myers News-Press that investigators took the computer Gates had used as evidence. He added that it's unlikely Gates will face any other charges. "Looking up stuff on the Internet--everybody has freedom to do that," said Ciaschini. Police later reported that no forensic examination was made of the computer due to the lack of probable cause to obtain a search warrant.

"The library staff was really not involved at all," said Charlotte-Glades Library System Director Mary Ellen Fisher, who told American Libraries that Myers "did not come to the staff. He went straight to the police department." When the police arrived, they proceeded directly to Gates; while the branch head was phoning Fisher to tell her what was happening, she was told to evacuate the building.

Fisher said the events left library staff concerned over "a general attitude that seems to be prevalent now that we're supposed to be spying on everyone. …

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