What Happened at the Hyatt Regency in Houston on New Year’s Eve?

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The Hyatt Regency in Downtown Houston hosts a massive New Year’s Eve party that involves over 2,000 guests, spans 4 floors, and features a 50,000 balloon drop at midnight and yesterday was its 40th anniversary. But this year, this party and the City of Houston experienced quite a scare before this party took off.

It all started when 49-year-old Russell Lawrence Ziemba apparently got into a confrontation at the hotel’s bar. At first security guards tried to get the man to go up to his room but he ended up fighting with them and so they called the police. Houston Police eventually made it up to his room on the top floor and they discovered a scary sight. Officers reportedly found an AR-15, a shotgun and a handgun, along with many rounds of ammunition.

Although this was a disturbing finding, officers stated that this was not a Las Vegas type situation in terms of the level of arsenal found. It sounds like the situation remained under control very well, too. Many guests reported not experiencing any type of major disruption other than seeing the man getting arrested (Ziemba was eventually arrested for unlawfully carrying a weapon and trespassing among other likely charges).

It’s been reported that, “[b]ased on limited amount of ammunition, interview and other investigative findings no unlawful intent found.” Apparently all three guns were legally owned and Ziemba didn’t make any threats. It’s worth noting that at the time of his arrest, the suspect was out on bond following a Dec. 23 misdemeanor arrest for allegedly carrying a handgun in his car and he’d been convicted twice for drunk driving.

The party went on with heightened security but didn’t experience any issues. Based on the reports, it sounds like this might have been a situation where a disturbed person unexplainably brought guns and ammunition to a hotel hosting a huge party with 2,000 people but never expressed any intent to attempt a mass shooting or other type of attack. It all sounds very suspect and hard to believe, though, as I don’t understand why anybody would even think about bringing that type of weaponry and ammunition to a hotel on New Year’s Eve if they weren’t up to something.

It’s great to hear that nothing happened, but I really think that we are probably entering into a new era of heightened security screening and more vigilant hotel staff members. Some hotels are already implementing their own versions of this but I foresee hotel security getting ramped up in the next couple of years, especially for hotels located at or near major events.

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