Article in Albany, NY Newspaper

Tuesday, April 20, 1993
Times Union

Seven RPI students take the fall for Drop Squad pranks
By Craig Brandon
Staff writer

TROY - The seven merry pranksters known as the Drop Squad, a notorious group that dropped typewriters, pumpkins and 100 McDonald's hamburgers down a nine-story stairwell on the RPI campus, have finally been apprehended.

Since last fall the main stairwell of the Center for Industrial Innovation has been periodically attacked with food, newspapers, a fully decorated Christmas tree, equipment, record albums and shredded videotape, according to Christopher LeMeistre, director of the building.

"It was a terrible mess and it took quite a while to clean it up," he said. "It happened on a fairly regular basis."

He said it took as long as 10 hours for janitors to clean up the messes after the drops.

What at first appeared to be a random prank, he said, became more mysterious when a group calling itself the Rensselaer Drop Squad began taking credit for the vandalism, leaving clues and notes behind.

"They left their name on some of the record albums," he said.

While no one was injured, he said, anyone who entered the bottom of the stairwell during one of the drops could have been hurt.

"There was also the problem of people slipping on things like food left on the stairs," he said.

RPI Campus Security investigated the incidents for months but were only able to crack the case after the leader of the group supplied them with a copy of a videotape made by the squad at the time of the drops.

The leader of the group, whose identity could not be confirmed, was unavailable for comment and is no longer at RPI. In a message he posted on a computer network last week, however, he denied fingering his buddies and said the tape he gave to investigators had been edited to remove the identities of all other squad members.

He provided the tape to security after he was left out of the most recent drop, which involved over 100 McDonald's hamburgers. He said that he had understood that he would not be punished if he provided the tape.

Bill Denn, spokesman for the RPI Public Safety office, said campus policy made it illegal for him to disclose names, but confirmed that the videotape was a factor in solving the case.

The Polytechnic campus newspaper reported that the tape also included footage of the campus security offices with the Three Stooges theme "Three Blind Mice" playing in the background.

"We didn't take that personally," said Denn, who added that while the students may have considered it a harmless prank, the drops was actually quite dangerous.

"It's typical for students not to think about the implications of something like this," he said, "It does have its sinister aspects."

The Institute's Judicial Board sentenced the seven to pay back the cost of the cleanup and perform community service. Six members were put on probation and the leader of the group was expelled. The reason for the expulsion was not available.

The leader of the group, who calls himself "The Chairman" in his computer messages, said that he called security on his own and was later questioned by an official in his dormitory. The other members of the squad lived in the same dorm, he said.