A man arrested for setting fire to one of Google's Street View cars has told the authorities he feared the company was watching him.
Raul Diaz, 30, of Oakland, was arrested on Thursday outside Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California, after his car was flagged by security as similar to one that had been seen at three previous attacks on Google property.
Diaz drove off, but police officers tailed him and pulled him over just after midnight for speeding. Inside the car they found what they believe was a pipebomb.
Diaz told police that he was targeting the Google building because "he felt Google was watching him and that made him upset." He also kept a journal of all the times Google has been watching him, according to an affidavit [PDF] filed in court the next day. He denied it was a pipebomb in his car, however, but merely a "tube filled with cotton and bullets."
Diaz has been charged with just one crime – arson – for allegedly setting fire to one of the cars that Google uses to record images for its Street View service. But police officers believe he may be responsible for another two attacks on the company.
On May 19, at 11pm, a Google employee saw a man fitting Diaz's description throw two molotov cocktails (in Blue Moon beer bottles) at the windscreen of a Street View car. They both bounced off; one smashed and burst into flames and the other didn't, so he picked it up and threw it again, smashing it onto the ground near the car. That fire damaged the ground but did not destroy the car.
Two weeks later, at 10:30pm and a different Google location half a mile away, another Google employee reported shots fired at his building. Police found five bullet holes and security footage showed what looked like the same vehicle as in the previous attack.
A third attack happened at 2:00am a week later at another Google location. That time, a car and man looking similar to the two previous attacks – with recognizable Nike shoes – used a squirt gun seemingly as a flamethrower to attack another Google car. This time the car didn't survive. But the attacker escaped again.
As a result, Google security went on high alert and was on the lookout for a Hispanic man in his 20s or 30s with a thin build, short black hair and driving a gray VW Touareg SUV. On June 30, Diaz drove onto the Google campus and they started following him. When he started driving erratically they called the cops, who turned up a few minutes later and pulled Diaz over.
Diaz is due to appear at a detention hearing on Friday July 8 in San Jose. If ultimately found guilty of the current charges placed against him, he faces a maximum 20-year jail sentence and $250,000 fine. ®