A Diboll phone “Prankster,” set to accept a plea deal Tuesday, offered an apology to those affected the night he prank called a Lufkin McDonalds, resulting in more than $5,000 in damage.
Tyler Markle, 20, appeared in an Angelina County courtroom Tuesday afternoon ready to take a 30-day jail sentence before Judge Gerald Goodwin, however, things did not go as planned, Markle said.
“I have to go back to Judge (Barry) Bryan,” Markle said with a sigh as he puffed on a cigarette outside the Angelina County courthouse. “Four or five months ago Judge Bryan offered me 90 days in jail and restitution to McDonalds, Lufkin Fire Department and Lufkin Police Department, but I turned it down. I was in (Texas Youth Commission) from the time I was 14 to the time I was 18. That put the fear of jail in me.”
Markle said this time he will enter a guilty plea, accepting the original deal before Bryan as soon as next week for the June 20, 2009 incident in which he called the McDonalds on Timberland and convinced an employee to test the fire suppression system. On that date, Markle instructed the employee to remove the safety pin on the emergency extinguisher and pull the handle, causing a clear liquid to spray onto a grill in the kitchen. He then told the employee the liquid was a deadly toxin and advised her to evacuate the building, according to previous reports. The employee cleared the building of all 25 people inside.
Once outside, Markle called her on a cell phone number she had given him, which he had asked for to provide her further instructions. He then told her to break out the business windows for ventilation. The employee ended up using a tire tool to break out four windows, according to previous reports.
“I’m sorry for all the trouble I caused Lufkin Fire Department, Lufkin Police Department and for the inappropriate conversation I had with the store employee,” he said. “It started as me and a bunch of friends I met online just having fun. The whole thing just got out of hand.”
Lufkin Police began investigating Markle after TheSmokingGun.com, a New York-based News organization, published an investigative article in Aug. 2009 naming Markle and others for their involvement in an organized Internet prank group called Pranknet.org. During one prank detailed by TSG, Markle, known as “Prankster,” allegedly called a Baytown Arby’s and succeeded in posing as a local firefighter who convinced a worker to activate the kitchen’s fire suppression system. The hoax reportedly cost $4,600 in damages, according to a TSG report.
The article piqued the interest of Lufkin Police investigators who were looking into the Lufkin McDonalds incident. Investigators eventually linked Markle to it through phone records and he was arrested in Sept. 2009.
Markle is currently on probation for a similar prank in Jefferson Parish, La. In addition to the 90-day jail sentence, Markle will also spend the next five years on probation, he said.
“I don’t want to go back to jail,” Markle said, “but I want to put an end to the grief of my family.”
Jessica Cooley’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.