Two young brothers, one of them a high school student, were the subject of an intense police stop and search in Niagara Falls this morning, but they apparently were nothing more than tourists from Massachusetts.
“It seems that their only crime was that they were from Massachusetts, and one of them looked similar to the [Boston Marathon] bombers,” a police source said.
However, the young man driving the car was ticketed by Niagara Falls police for passing a stop sign and failure to use a turn signal, authorities said during an early afternoon news conference.
The brothers, one 17 and the other 20, were stopped on their way to Niagara Falls. They later headed to visit the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Authorities said the brothers’ father was born in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. They both were born in the United States.
A member of the Air National Guard spotted the two men traveling on the Thruway early this morning and noticed the car’s Massachusetts license plate. The guardsman called police while tailing the car into Niagara Falls, and eventually police stopped it on Elmwood Avenue, west of 19th Street, at about 7:20 a.m.
“There was no chase – they complied,” said Niagara Falls Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto.
The guardsman was dressed in uniform. “He felt that they attempted to evade him,” DalPorto said, noting that they avoided eye contact with the guardsman.
Local, state and federal officers swarmed the car, took the brothers into custody and inspected the car, but nothing suspicious was found. A State Police bomb squad was called to the scene.
Law enforcement officials interviewed the brothers throughout the morning. “They have been completely cooperative throughout the whole investigation and we have to thank them for it,” DalPorto said.
Meanwhile, a State Police robot was used to open the doors on the driver’s side of the car. It pulled out two backpacks, a pillow and a fourth item.
Authorities said there was nothing in the backpacks, other than papers and personal belongings. When pressed about the contents, the captain said: “It really would be inappropriate for us to say.”
The car is owned by the young men’s father, DalPorto said. “The father was the one that consented to the search – as well as the driver and the occupant,” he added.
Given the developing situation in the Boston area, authorities were taking no chances. That’s why they called the State Police, U.S. Border Patrol agents, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
“Any time you’re involved in an operation like this, you have to have an abundance of caution,” said Hanesworth.
“I think we handled it appropriately,” DalPorto said.