GALVESTON — Four men accused of emptying fire extinguishers inside a historic U.S. Navy ship were arrested early Thursday morning on felony charges, authorities said.
Cody Ryan Schuetze of Smithville and Paden Glenn Walker of Galveston, both 19, and twin brothers Stetson David Lott and Sterling Thomas Lott, both 20 and from Elgin, each face a felony charge of criminal mischief, authorities said.
The men remained jailed Thursday afternoon, each on a $10,000 bond in connection with the vandalism of the interior of the USS Stewart Destroyer Escort 238, a vessel commissioned in 1943. The ship was part of the Atlantic Fleet during World War II.
Penny J. Miller, executive director of the American Undersea Warfare Center at Seawolf Park on Pelican Island, said the park manager who lives on the site heard noises aboard the ship shortly after 2 a.m.
“He thought the ship was on fire,” Miller said. “He saw what he thought was smoke billowing out from the starboard doors.”
The manager called Miller, and she arrived to see six police cars, an ambulance and a tow truck. Miller found a pickup backed up to a gated entrance of the park.
“I got there just in time to see them escorted off the ship,” Miller said. “What they don’t realize is the ship is still owned by the U.S. Navy. It’s on the Department of Interior National Register of Historic Places.”
Officers searched the ship and arrested four men found inside, police Lt. Michael Gray said. Miller estimated the damage between $5,000 and $15,000, Gray said.
“Due to the fire extinguisher dust being very caustic, the executive director advised they’ll have to replace several pieces of equipment and wiring in the vessel,” Gray said.
Miller also found feces and urine in the ship’s toilets, which don’t flush, and blood along the floor. Miller believes while running through the ship, one of the men could have tripped on one of the portals that protrude above the floor.
Miller on Thursday was soliciting bids to remove the chemical from the floor, walls, ceilings, machine shop, kitchen and other areas.
The nonprofit organization will also accept donations to help clean the mess, Miller said. The center’s telephone number is 409-770-3196.
Tourists are still allowed on the ship’s exterior, but won’t be able to tour the interior until it’s cleaned, Miller said.