Weapons Haul in Brooklyn

Daily News/November 12, 1996
By Jose Lambiet, Jim Harney, Tom Raftery and Stephen Mcfarland

Cops responding to reports of child abuse in a Brooklyn apartment arrested 30 people early this morning and evacuated several adjoining buildings after they found a cache of weapons.

Officers also found a maze of "dungeons" and tunnels connecting the cellars of the buildings at 1107, 1111 and 1115 Carroll St. in Crown Heights, a police source said.

The underground passages were believed to have been dug by members of a cultlike group that owns the buildings.

The cops also found metal pipes that appeared to contain explosives, and the buildings were evacuated as a precaution.

The bomb squad, the emergency service unit and detectives descended on the house, and police and fire trucks, as well as other emergency vehicles, filled an adjoining street while officers searched the premises early today.

Tenants of the buildings were evacuated to a nearby church as the search went on, but no explosives were found, police sources said.

Officers from the 71st Precinct went to the four-story brownstone at 1107 Carroll St. about 8 p.m. yesterday with social workers who were checking on the abuse reports, said police spokesman Arek Tarih.

The social workers had gone to the building in response to a call to the state's child abuse hotline about possible mistreatment of children in a second-floor apartment in the building.

The social workers were refused entry, and asked for police support.

The first police on the scene were also refused entry and the stand-off was initially treated as a hostage situation.

Later, the police were able to get into the apartment as well as other areas of the buildings, where they found "military type" weapons and pipes, sources said.

At least four children were removed from the house, though it was not immediately known if they showed signs of abuse.

Neighbors said the 30 adults who were arrested live in one or more units in each of the buildings.

And police sources said the three buildings were connected by a maze of tunnels, dungeons and secret passages.

Tenants said the building's owners were often seen dragging bags of debris out of the buildings and loading them into cars to haul away.

Several tenants said the group members divided their time between the Carroll St. buildings, which they have owned for a number of years, and a rural retreat upstate.

They also said members of the group were secretive and clannish, but apparently law-abiding.

"They mind their own busines," said Marciana Felix, 55, a resident of one of the evacuated buildings.

"I see them carrying boxes in and out. What they do is their business. They don't bother anybody and that's fine with me," she said.

"This is shocking," said Sylvester Beauvais, 55, who lives nearby. "I walk past that building a lot, and I never noticed anything out of the ordinary. This is not a bad neighborhood; every so often the police come for something, but I never thought I'd ever see this many policemen on the street."

Craig Johnson, 26, a tenant in one of the buildings, said he had found the behavior of the group's members strange in a number of ways.

"You ask them for their name and they'll tell you, 'You don't need to know my name,' " he said.

He said tenants of the buildings are forbidden to enter the basements or backyards "for their own protection."

But residents of the building were skeptical of the child abuse story. Several said the children of the group always seemed to be happy and well cared for.

Charges were pending against the 30 people arrested. The status of the children was not immediately known.

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