Residents of a southeast Austin neighborhood say that a homeless man has been menacing the area by chainsawing down trees and setting up bizarre wood figures for months.
The man, identified by Fox 7 Austin as Rami Zawaideh, has been arrested five times since July on trespassing charges around the Williamson Creek Greenbelt.
“Always walking around with a chainsaw, and then after a week, he had a pole saw,” Westlake Neighborhood Resident John James Pepper told the local news outlet.
“It’s really odd times, and just chopping and a saw going off, and then you’ll wake up or come back home and then there’s just more of these weird monolithic structures, just stacks of what I believe to be greenbelt trees.”
Three of the criminal trespass cases have been dismissed, according to court records.
During the first arrest on July 27, an Austin Police Department officer informed Zawaideh and others at a homeless encampment in the greenbelt that they needed to leave because they were on private property that was about to be cleaned up. He allegedly started packing his belongings, but then refused to leave.
“After multiple attempts to talk Zawaideh into leaving the property to avoid having to arrest him, he still refused,” the officer wrote in an arrest affidavit.
The Travis County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the case on Aug. 2.
He was arrested four more times for criminal trespassing in the area on Aug. 18, Sept. 10, Sept. 21, and Oct. 18.
Two of those cases have been dismissed, while one is listed as active and one is listed as pending in court records. The Travis County District Attorney’s Office did not return a request for comment on Thursday.
Another resident of Westlake Neighborhood, Christina Coats-Gatz, said she had a bizarre interaction recently with Zawaideh.
“This individual named Rami comes after me and says ‘you’re stealing my tools,’ and I’m like, ‘hold on, I’m not stealing your tools, you’re not supposed to be here. The city has cleared everybody out, you can’t build latrines.’ He’s like ‘I’m not building a latrine,’ something about Satan is in the trees, what’s wrong with you, are you a satanist,” Coats-Gatz told Fox 7 Austin.
“What if next week God tells him to burn the whole forest? There’s people all up and down here, there’s a retirement community, this is a danger back here.”
A defense attorney listed in court records did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.