Police drawn by false alarms to North Strabane tower

March 21, 2014
Communications tower workers Mark Mercure, left, and Josh Smith walk with North Strabane Township police officers from the site of two towers on Lindley Road. The men tripped alarms that had police wondering initially whether the site was being targeted by thieves. - Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Two men working at a fenced-in communications towers in North Strabane Township set off alarms at the site Friday, sending police with their guns drawn to investigate their presence.

One of the men was brought down at gunpoint from the top of a tower after township police received a report the pair climbed over a fence to reach the property off Lindley Road and discovered the workers were not carrying official identification.

The scare quickly came to an end about 1:15 p.m. after police contacted the men’s employer, Irish Tower of Maryland, and were told they had permission to work on the towers, an officer at the scene said.

The men, Josh Smith of Florida and Mark Mercure of Tennessee, already completed their assigned tasks at the property and were allowed to leave without further incident, police said.

Police said the FBI wants the towers to be secured because their devices are responsible for multiple communication systems, including police, cellphone and television.

There also have been thefts at the property in the past, police added.

The men also had bolt cutters, which helped to briefly turn them into theft suspects.

One alarm the men set off at the property triggered at a West Virginia company, police said.

Also responding to the false alarm were state police, South Strabane Township police and officials from First Energy.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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