Accused Wright-Patterson Gate Runner Appears in Court

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

DAYTON -- A Beavercreek man accused of trespassing through a Wright-Patterson Air Force Base security gate pleaded not guilty Wednesday seven months after the alleged incident caused an hours-long evacuation of employees in two buildings and a shelter-in-place order at a base child care center.

Edward J. Novak, 31, was appointed a public defender attorney during an arraignment in front of Magistrate Judge Michael J. Newman in U.S. District Court in Dayton.

Novak conferred with this attorney during the proceeding, but said little in court. He refused comment when he left the courtroom.

The defendant was free on his own recognizance and was scheduled for an Aug. 10 court proceeding. Repeated messages were left with Novak's lawyer Wednesday.

The suspect faces eight misdemeanor counts in federal court after he was accused of driving through Gate 22B near Interstate 675 in violation of a sentry's order Nov. 24 and made his way on foot into a restricted-access building in the Sensors Directorate at Wright-Patterson.

The situation caused a major disruption, causing employees in Air Force Research Laboratory buildings 600 and 620 to evacuate for about three hours and a nearby child care center was under a shelter-in-place order, authorities have said.

Police blocked roads on and off the base, while the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Wright-Patterson Fire Department, and an Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal team were among the agencies that converged at the scene.

The suspect was charged with trespassing, assault, making false alarms and disorderly conduct. He also was arraigned on charges of operating a vehicle under the influence, inducing panic, failure to comply with a lawful order, and fleeing and eluding a police officer, according to federal court records. If convicted, the maximum penalty on any one charge would be up to six months in jail and a fine of several thousand dollars.

A base intruder apparently entered an open door after someone exited one of the buildings, authorities have said. He was stopped by employees who realized the man did not have a security badge, and turned over to security forces and detained but not arrested, authorities have said.

Air Force and federal officials have refused to disclose the circumstances behind why the suspect was charged with assault and making a false alarm, why employees were evacuated for hours, and why an explosive ordinance team and an FBI anti-terrorism team were at the scene.

A base spokesman had said last fall after the security breach the man showed no ill intent. The Air Force has denied a Freedom of Information Act request to release records related to the incident.

Court records say the suspect "did knowingly assault an individual with the initials S.D." but provided no additional information. The document also says the suspect "did initiate or circulate a report or warning of an alleged or impending fire, explosion, crime or other catastrophe knowing that such report or warning was false and was likely to cause public inconvenience or alarm."

A police search did not turn up weapons on the suspect or inside a vehicle driven onto the base, a Wright-Patterson spokesman has said.

Novak's arraignment occurred the day after an 88th Air Base Wing change of command ceremony Tuesday that put a new installation commander in charge at Wright-Patterson, but both base and federal officials said the timing of the two events were not connected and had nothing to do with the other.

The arraignment was rescheduled in February when the suspect did not appear in court, and then rescheduled twice in April at the request of the defendant or his representative, federal officials said. The court sets arraignment dates.

Col. John M. Devillier, then installation commander, said at a Dec. 4 press conference about the security breach a range of planned security upgrades at Wright-Patterson security gates would include barricades and serpentine traffic lanes "but also modification to tactics, techniques and procedures."

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton has also called for additional security measures at the base. In a $12 million project, two base security gates will be consolidated into one as part of future changes, officials have said.

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