Police identified the suspects as Brian Church, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, New Hampshire; and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24. A police spokesman gave Betterly's hometown as Oakland Park, Massachusetts, but no such town exists. There is an Oakland Park, Florida, that is near Fort Lauderdale.
Activist Bill Vassilakis, who said he let the men stay in his apartment, described Betterly as an industrial electrician who had volunteered to help wire service at The Plant, a former meatpacking facility that has been turned into a food incubator with the city's backing.
Vassilakis said he thought the charges were unwarranted.
"All I can say about that is, if you knew Brent, you would find that to be the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard. He was the most stand-up guy that was staying with me. He and the other guys had done nothing but volunteer their time and energy," he said."
Betterly appears to have a history of minor run-ins with law enforcement.
He was cited for disorderly intoxication in February in Miami-Dade County, Florida, earlier this year , but the case has been dismissed, according to online court records.
Authorities in Oakland Park, Florida, said Betterly and two other young men walked into a public high school last fall after a night of tequila drinking and took a swim in the pool, according to a report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
They allegedly stole fire extinguishers from three school buses, discharged one and smashed a cafeteria window with another. The vandalism caused about $2,000 in damage. Betterly was charged with burglary, theft and criminal mischief, the newspaper said.