Tourist Nabbed After Allegedly Scaling Brooklyn Bridge

A French tourist was arrested after allegedly climbing the Brooklyn Bridge to take photos, police said Sunday.

Yonathan Souid, 23, was charged with criminal trespassing and felony reckless endangerment, the NYPD said. He pleaded not guilty to those charges Monday. His lawyer, James Medows, said Souid acted foolishly but meant no harm .

Souid is accused of climbing over a fence on the pedestrian walkway shortly after noon on Sunday to reach a cable beam connected to the tower on the Manhattan-bound side. The beam was about 20 feet above Manhattan-bound traffic.

He allegedly said he was taking photos for a news website in France, but had no press credentials, police said.

Friend Jeffrey Sternfeld said Souid, who speaks minimal English, was actually in New York as part of a Jewish cultural program and that he arrived a few days ago. He'd been staying in Brooklyn and was scheduled to catch a flight back to France at 6:20 p.m. Sunday. 

Witness photos and video from below the bridge show a man walking atop the cable alone. The witness who shot the images told NBC 4 New York he called police after he saw the suspect atop the bridge.

In the video, captured from the carousel at Brooklyn Bridge Park, a man off-camera can be heard saying "he's not supposed to be there."

Bail was set at $15,000 or $7,500 and Souid was ordered to surrender his passport. 

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said Monday the man's alleged climb was "foolish."

"In this age of heightened terrorism, it's very important that we protect the security of the Brooklyn Bridge at all times and under all circumstances," Thompson said. "This defendant blatantly compromised that security for his own selfish reasons and will now be prosecuted for his foolish and unlawful conduct."

Medows said Souid only wanted to take photos of the iconic landmark.

"He was a foolish tourist. He apologizes. My client apologizes to the great borough of Brooklyn, the great city of New York again it's a beautiful city to live in it has beautiful views and my client was taking pictures. He didn't mean to scare anyone and if he did he apologizes," he said.

Medows added, "The city wants to be tougher on security, implement more security. There's not enough safety in place."

The alleged daredevil feat comes seven months after two German artists claimed to have scaled both towers of the Brooklyn Bridge and switched American flags for white flags.

In August, a Russian tourist was arrested after ascending a cable to the top of one of the towers.

The breaches at the bridge, along with ones at One World Trade Center and 432 Park Avenue, have brought scrutiny to safety at the city's landmarks.

Sen. Charles Schumer has proposed legislation that would make it a federal crime to trespass at landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge.

-- Marc Santia contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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