Division to Unity: My neighbor, the bomber

Police cars lined Albans Street when senior Katie Friedman arrived home from a sleepover on Aug. 20. Officers were investigating the home of Andrew Schenck, which is two doors down from Friedman’s. Unbeknownst to her, the 25-year-old Schenck had been arrested after allegedly trying to plant a bomb at a Confederate statue in Hermann Park the day before.

Several hours later, Friedman glanced out her second-story window to see HAZMAT vehicles, fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, black SUVs and an army-green military Hummer rolling down her street.

After coming to a stop in front of Schenck’s house, SWAT team members tumbled out of their vehicles, fully loaded with protective gear and guns. The Hummer swiveled and aimed its turret squarely at Schenck’s front door while several more men clad in camouflage rapidly dismounted. No sirens or yells pierced the air, preserving the street’s eerie silence amid the chaos. The neighborhood anxiously awaited answers to the mystery as officers investigated Schenck’s property for the rest of the day.

Early the next morning, officers prepared to detonate explosive materials and warned residents to evacuate their homes. Families who stayed would hear the explosion, see smoke and feel the ground shake beneath them. As the Friedmans prepared to evacuate, several helicopters circled above their home and reporters swarmed the sidewalks. When the family returned later that night, the immediate danger was over, but law enforcement remained on their block.

“I didn’t really think about how dangerous the situation could be, and I kept going outside trying to take pictures and send them to all my friends,” Friedman said. “I probably should have taken it more seriously.”

That night, officers confirmed their suspicions: Schneck had been experimenting with explosives as well as other hazardous materials and chemicals.

This was not the first time law enforcement visited Albans Street.

In 2013, Schneck’s home was raided by government agents for possession of high-risk chemicals and explosives. Schneck was sentenced to five years’ probation because it was his first offense, but he was released early, just two years and two months into his sentence.