After Yuge Gamble, Intrepid Trumpie Ends Up in Bellevue

Stephen Rogata, at around the eighth floor of Trump Tower, turns the corner from an east-facing wall to a south-facing one after police cut through ventilation grates above him. | JEFFERSON SIEGEL
Stephen Rogata, at around the eighth floor of Trump Tower, turns the corner from an east-facing wall to a south-facing one after police cut through ventilation grates above him. | JEFFERSON SIEGEL

BY JEFFERSON SIEGEL | An admirer intent on meeting real estate mogul and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump brought Midtown to a standstill on August 10 (as Manhattan Express was last going to press).

Traffic didn’t stall at the shock of someone in Manhattan actually supporting Trump. Instead, crowds gathered because the man, identified by police as Stephen Rogata, 19, of Great Falls, Virginia, chose to climb the outside of Trump Tower in hopes of meeting his hero.

News reports said his birth name is Michael Joseph Ryan, but that he recently changed it.

The day before, after posting a YouTube video describing himself as an independent researcher seeking a “private audience” with the candidate, Rogata drove to Manhattan, spending the night at the swank Bowery Hotel Downtown.

Carrying a backpack, the long-haired Rogata, wearing shorts and a green T-shirt, walked into the glitzy building at midafternoon and made his way to a fifth-floor outdoor space. After unpacking four large suction cups and two long straps, he climbed the sloping enclosure on the building’s east side before beginning his nearly three-hour vertical ascent.

He did not go unnoticed long. Shortly after 3:30 p.m., a 911 call of a possible jumper at the building brought emergency vehicles to Fifth Avenue.

Police shut down East 56th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues. Giant yellow airbags were inflated on 56th Street and on a building setback. Barricades along Madison Avenue were soon packed with crowds, their cell phone cameras pointed skyward at the unfolding spectacle.

Rogata could be seen wiping each surface before slamming a suction cup against the glass to guarantee a tight seal. Despite occasional gasps and cheers from the crowd below, Rogata never appeared to lose his grip or slip from the straps.

As Rogata slowly rose along the dark glass wall, the 58-story building’s sealed windows left police little opportunity to snag the ascending alpinist. Their first attempt involved cutting through metal ventilation grates and extending a ladder across the top of an atrium. But once he saw the distinctive blue helmets of Emergency Service Unit police above him, Rogata changed course, moving horizontally toward the building’s southern wall.

After Rogata turned the corner, police several floors up broke one of the double-paned windows. A large piece narrowly missed him as shards of glass fell to the street below.

Two officers then descended in a window washers’ scaffold, stopping three floors directly above Rogata — but, seeing no way to grab him, they soon returned to the roof.

As he reached the 18th floor, a large window several floors above began shaking. It appeared police might also break through that window. But moments later, it was clear that glaziers had been brought in to help remove the large window and an adjacent pane.

Seeing his upward progress thwarted, Rogata again moved horizontally, but by then the window washers’ basket had returned to block him.

Rogata continued climbing along the building’s wall and was soon within easy reach of police at the now-open 21st-floor window.

A half-dozen officers watched as Rogata came even with them. As two officers reached out to snag him, Rogata made a last grab of the building’s corner before finally being pulled inside. Crowds cheered as Rogata’s flailing legs followed his body inside.

“When [the opportunity] presented itself, I reached out, took hold of his hand and I said, ‘Sir, come with me,’” said Detective Christopher Williams of E.S.U., one of the officers who pulled Rogata inside.

Rogata was taken out the building’s Fifth Avenue entrance on a stretcher for transport to Bellevue Hospital, where he spent several days under observation. He was charged with reckless endangerment and criminal trespass.