Fearing surveillance, man allegedly shot at Google and set self-driving car ablaze

Police arrest Oakland man near Google headquarters with pipe bomb, firearms in car

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A building at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California, on August 17, 2015.

Credit: Martyn Williams

A man who told police he feared surveillance by Google has been arrested and charged with arson after one of the company's self-driving cars was destroyed in an attack in June.

Raul Murillo Diaz of Oakland was stopped by police after Google security spotted him driving around the company's headquarters campus in Mountain View, California, just after midnight on June 30. They became suspicious because his car matched that spotted at the scene of several attacks on the company over the preceding six weeks.

The first, on May 19, saw several Molotov cocktails thrown at a Google Street View vehicle that was parked in a company lot in Mountain View. The resulting fire didn't damage the car because the bottles bounced off it, but the ground nearby was burnt.

A second incident on June 4 occurred late at night when someone fired shots at a Google building in Mountain View. Police found five holes in windows and damage to window frames.

Surveillance video captured both incidents.

The third happened on June 10 in the middle of the night when a male in a similar car used a squirt gun to set alight a Google self-driving car. The car was destroyed in the fire. Further linking the three crimes, the driver parked in the same spot as in the original incident and was in a similar car.

After he was stopped on June 30, officers found a pipe bomb in the driver's car along with firearms. Bomb squad detectives said the bomb was in a nonworking state but required only flash powder or a flammable substance to be functional.

In a filing with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, prosecutors say Diaz admitted to carrying out the three attacks and was motivated by a belief that "Google was watching him."

The charge of arson comes with a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a maximum fine of US$250,000.

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