Drone flight over Capitol ends in crash, arrest


By Dennis Yusko and Casey Seiler

A Troy man who has for months been testing the limits of his constitutional rights and the patience of police in several jurisdictions appeared in Albany City Court to face allegations he crashed a drone into the state Capitol.

Adam Rupeka, whose May arrest in Saratoga Springs led to a police officer’s resignation and a $50,000 legal settlement, on Wednesday answered a criminal summons charging him with reckless endangerment and reckless endangerment of property, both misdemeanors.

State Police say the 36-year-old on Sept. 17 operated a drone with a camera that crashed into one of the Capitol’s towering chimneys and fell on its roof. Officers confiscated the high-end drone, identified as a Phantom Professional. Rupeka used his smartphone to record video of his discussion with a plainclothes officer following his arrest. He published the clip on a website he regularly contributes to called Capital District Cop Block with the title “NY State Police Steal My Drone.”

“We have an incident involving a drone in which you flew a drone into the Capitol,” a State Police investigator tells Rupeka on the video. “That’s a problem.”

On the recording, Rupeka demands the return of his drone. A trooper tells him authorities will hold the device while they investigate if a crime was committed.

Rupeka insists his property can’t be held without a warrant or criminal charge. Police issued him a receipt for the device, and he was released under the supervision of the Albany County Probation Department.

On Oct. 1, Albany City Court Judge Rachel Kretser reviewed the case and issued a criminal summons for Rupeka, according to State Police. The judge ordered Rupeka to report to State Police barracks on the Empire State Plaza concourse for arrest processing. His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 21.

Rupeka worked as a security guard at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy for roughly a year until about 2010, patrolling the campus, answering phones and monitoring security cameras, according to college officials. He left the job on his own and became active in challenging police authority, or what he views as abuses of power.

But some say Rupeka uses baiting tactics to provoke reactions from officers.

In May, he videotaped himself driving through Saratoga Springs and showing his middle finger to city police officer Nathan Baker. Baker pulled Rupeka over and, when the driver would not get out of his car without hearing what he was being charged with, Baker pepper-sprayed him in the face. Rupeka posted video of that incident. Baker subsequently quit the force, while Rupeka received a $50,000 settlement from Saratoga Springs.

More recently, Rupeka and his advanced drone have mounted something of a state tour as related in videos posted on the CopBlock website. On Sept. 9, State Police confronted Rupeka in Dannemora, Clinton County, and accused him of flying a drone over Clinton Correctional Facility, from which two inmates escaped in June.

A trooper also confronted Rupeka last month for reportedly videotaping the exterior of the Troop G barracks on Troy Schenectady Road, according to a video made by Rupeka. No charges were lodged in either incident. Outside Troop G headquarters, a State Police sergeant told Rupeka that police were still learning how to deal with the flying of drones and lack of legislation regulating their use.