Police Arrest Intoxicated Man, Discover Guns & Ammo In His Houston Hotel Room

By Paul Gaita 01/02/18

The discovery of the weapons raised initial concerns in the media of another possible hotel-related mass shooting.

police arresting man

Police in Houston, Texas answered a call about an intoxicated individual at a downtown hotel and discovered a small cache of guns and ammunition in his hotel room. Investigators said that police assistance was requested after Russell Lawrence Ziemba, 49, reportedly acted in an intoxicated and belligerent manner during the early morning hours of December 31, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, which was hosting one of the city's largest New Year's Eve parties. Upon arrival, police said that the responding officers discovered multiple weapons, including an AR-15, and ammunition in his hotel room.

The discovery of the weapons raised initial concerns in the media of a possible hotel-related mass shooting like the October 2017 incident in Las Vegas that claimed 58 lives, but a police spokesperson said that there appeared to be no such intent in Ziemba's case.

Ziemba was a guest at the Hyatt Regency at the time of his arrest, and later told officers that he had intended to celebrate the New Year there. He later admitted to police that he had been drinking for a few days prior to the incident on December 31, and according to security officers at the hotel, was acting in an intoxicated manner at the Hyatt Regency's bar at the time of his arrest. Police were summoned at 1:30 a.m. after Ziemba refused security officers' request for him to leave the bar, and according to officials, reportedly struggled with an officer before Houston law enforcement arrived on the scene.

Police reported that the responding officer initially intended to arrest Ziemba on charges of trespassing due to his refusal to leave the bar. But upon entering his room to retrieve his belongings, police said that officers found an AR-15—a semi-automatic rifle—as well as a shotgun, a handgun and many rounds of ammunition. Senior law officials were quoted as saying that Ziemba appeared to be extremely intoxicated and depressed at the time of his arrest, and was unable to provide a clear answer for why he had the weapons in his hotel room.

After hours of investigating, including confirmed but unspecified assistance by the FBI, police said that Ziemba had claimed that he had no intent of harming anyone, and had brought the guns into his room because he feared that they could be stolen if he left them in his vehicle, which was parked in the hotel garage.

A spokesperson for Houston police later said, "At this point, our investigators do not believe there was any kind of intent by him to use the weapons or to cause any kind of issue. It appears he was just bringing them in."

Ziemba was eventually charged with assaulting a police officer and trespassing. At the time of his arrest, he was out on bond following a December 23 misdemeanor arrest for allegedly carrying a handgun in his car, according to court records. He also had two prior convictions for driving while intoxicated, and according to interviews with a neighbor on Houston's KPRC-TV, Ziemba had acted in an intoxicated manner several days prior to the incident.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo later tweeted that the incident had been "contained" and advised residents to "always be vigilant and report suspicious activity to authorities." A spokesperson for the Hyatt Regency issued a statement that in part noted that "heightened measures" were in place for the New Year's Eve celebration.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.