Oakland man charged with arson after trying to set Google Headquarters on fire
An Oakland resident who said Google was “watching him” has been charged with one count of arson after being allegedly linked to three late-night attacks at Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters in Mountain View, California. In the attacks that took place in May and June, while one of the Internet search giant’s self-driving cars was destroyed by fire, but no one was hurt in the attacks.
Raul Murillo Diaz, 30, of Oakland, California was arrested by the Mountain View Police Department on June 30, after his vehicle was spotted at Google HQ (also known as the “Googleplex”) around midnight. His car, a 2004 grey Volkswagen Touareg, was previously caught on security tape involving three other criminal incidents at the campus.
According to a federal complaint, Diaz began the first attack shortly before midnight May 19 at the company’s huge campus in Mountain View, California. After seeing a man throw a beer bottle at a Google mapping car, an employee called police and then watched the area blow up into flames. The fire bombs landed at the rear of the vehicle, which sustained minimal damage.
Police say they recovered fragments from two bottles of Blue Moon beer. Charges in two later attacks are pending. The federal authorities said that the second incident took place on June 4 at about 11:30 p.m. Two witnesses reported hearing gunshots about half a mile away from where the fire broke out, and police arrived to find five bullet holes in Google office windows. It happened to be the same SUV that was captured on the surveillance video on May 19. Authorities believe a .22 caliber handgun was used during the attack.
Police were called a third time on June 10 at about 2 a.m. after a Google self-driving car was found engulfed in flames. Video footage showed a man nearby holding a makeshift water-pistol, believed by police to contain flammable liquid used to start the fire. The same SUV was also recorded on the surveillance video.
Shortly after midnight, on June 30, Mountain View police pulled over a 2004 Volkswagen Touareg they said Diaz was driving on the Google campus. The arresting officer said he could see a gun case and a cylinder with wires coming out of it, according to the affidavit. Though Diaz said the object was used for target practice, the bomb squad that was later called in said it was an unfinished explosive device.
Johnny Luu, a Google spokesman, said a self-driving car was not involved in any of the incidents and said he had no other information about what happened.
According to an affidavit filed last week in US District Court for the Northern District of California, Diaz told investigators he was responsible for all three attacks and was planning another before he was stopped and arrested. Diaz said he carried out these attacks because he felt that “Google was watching him and that made him upset.” He also kept journals of all the times he suspected the company was watching him.
The San Francisco Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are helping in the investigation.
Diaz made a brief appearance in a San Jose federal court Friday, but didn’t enter a plea. He remains jailed and is represented by federal public defender Varrel Fuller. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.