Federal prosecutors have charged a 30-year-old Oakland man with felony arson after he allegedly threw two Molotov cocktails in the form of beer bottles at Google near a "Street View" car less than two months ago.
Federal agents also suspect that Raul Murillo Diaz shot some type of projectiles at a Google building and and set another self-driving car on fire, both last month.
In an interview with police and prosecutors last week, Diaz said he "felt Google was watching him and it made him upset." He kept a journal of his thoughts, and eventually "admitted to committing the two arsons and shooting into the Google building," a federal affidavit states.
Despite the three crimes alleged, Diaz was charged in U.S. District Court on July 1 with one count of arson that caused "malicious damage by explosives," after a May 19 fire at a Google building at 1501 Salado Drive in Mountain View.
His federal public defender, Varell Laphelle Fuller, did not immediately respond for comment on Tuesday. If convicted of all counts, Diaz faces a maxim prison term of 20 years and a $250,000 fine. As of Tuesday he was being held with no bail in federal custody at the Santa Clara County Jail.
Surveillance of all three incidents led authorities to believe that Diaz was the same suspect in all the crimes. That's because witness accounts of the suspect were so similar, and the same SUV, a 2004 Volkswagen Tourareg, was seen in each case. Neither Diaz's booking photo nor any surveillance video from Google was released to the public.
The arson charge stems from a fire that broke out near one of Google's Street View cars in the parking lot, according to an affidavit signed June 30 by Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms special agent Michael Nuttall. Street View cars take panoramic images from positions along many streets in the world.
A Google employee was in his office on the first floor, Nuttall wrote, when he saw a man throw a beer bottle at the Street View car. Right afterward, the area burst into flames and the employee called 911 just before 11 p.m. Surveillance video shows the suspect throwing two beer-bottles-turned-Molotov-cocktails, which then bounced off the hood of the Google car. One bottle landed in the back of the car and burst into flames, the affidavit states. The other one landed on the driver's side of the car but didn't break.
The video then showed the suspect running back to his dark SUV. His description is similar to what the Google employee described, Nuttall wrote: A thin man, about 5 feet 10 inches tall.
Then, on June 4, about 10:30 p.m., a shooting occurred at a different Google building at 2700 Garcia Avenue, about half a mile from where the Molotov cocktails were thrown at the Street View car, the affidavit states. A passerby saw an SUV driving nearby and subsequent "popping" noises. The witness said he thought it sounded like someone was emptying a 10-round magazine from a .22-caliber handgun. Mountain View police discovered broken glass and five holes in the windows, though no bullet casings were found at the scene. White powder, now being analyzed at the Santa Clara County Crime lab, lined the windows. Surveillance video from that evening shows the suspect vehicle looked to be the same as the night of the Street View car arson, the affidavit states.
Then, on June 10, Mountain View police were called out to yet another Google building, at 1098 Alta Avenue. One of Google's self-driving cars had been destroyed in a fire, the affidavit states. Surveillance video showed a Latino man with a goatee wearing a dark-hooded sweatshirt and dark Nike shoes holding a squirt gun near the car. Soon afterward, a flash of light burst near the car, the surveillance video shows. The same SUV seen from the May 19 arson drove past the building.
Then on June 30, Mountain View police went to San Antonio Road at Bayshore Parkway, which is home to several Google buildings, to investigate a suspicious vehicle. NBC Bay Area was the first to report that activity. Google security officers spotted a gray 2004 Volkswagen Touareg driving through the campus. They followed the SUV, and noted it started pulling into random driveways and "slamming on its brakes for no apparent reason." One of the officers recognized that it was the same Volkswagen in the arson video and caught up to Diaz, who was wearing what appeared to be the same Nike shoes. He had a pipe bomb in his car, which he said were actually cotton balls and bullets in a tube.
Diaz was taken into custody and the vehicle was towed to the Mountain View Police Department.
He is scheduled to return to court on July 8.