Two American brothers arrested in Tunisia on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organization were released without charge Thursday, an official said.
Tunisia Police arrested the brothers on Tuesday on suspicion they may belong to a terrorist organization. On Wednesday the media outlet, Kapitalis, reported the men had been released for lack of hard evidence, but have been ordered to stay in the country pending the investigation.
One of the men is 31-year-old Patrick Alan Lawwill. His brother is also in his 30’s but his name has not been released.
According to Tunisia government officials the brothers came to the country after enrolling in a university. Police say they found material relating to hard-line Islamic law in the encampment where the brothers were staying. Officers also said the men recently converted from Christianity to Islam.
Katherine Donovan, a Lansing resident who was a former neighbor of the brothers, says she can’t believe they would have any links to terrorism.
“It’s kind of nerve-wracking,” Donovan said. “I wouldn’t have expected that from them honestly.”
Donovan says she met the brothers when they were teenagers and moved into a home on Ada Street in Lansing.
“We’d hang out pretty much everyday.” Donovan said. “We’d hang out, do things that we wanted to do like normal teenagers would, pretty much just do different things that would keep us out of trouble.”
Donovan says the brothers moved away after a few years and they fell out of touch. She says it wasn’t until 10 years later this past summer that she saw Lawwill and his brother.
“We just kind of like hung out, catching up, seeing how things were going,” Donovan noted. “They met my 4-year-old son.”
Donovan says the brothers mentioned they were moving but never said where or why.
“I can honestly say they never brought any of that to my attention,” she added.
Patrick Lawwill was a student in the Lansing School District for 6 years from 1990 – 1996. He then graduated from Olivet Community Schools in 2003.
The brother’s last known address was a home in the 900 block of Vine Street in Lansing. Lansing Police say the brothers lived there with their mother. The home has since been abandoned and was red-tagged by the city in 2015.
That same home is where police were called in 2007 when Patrick Lawwill was involved in a domestic dispute. Officers responding to that call say Lawwill fought with them and Lawwill was charged with 2 counts of assault related to that incident.
At some point the brothers moved to Tunisia, where police say one of them married a Tunisian woman who was also arrested on Tuesday.
Donovan says that’s a far cry from the Lawwills she remembers.
“I never expected it from them, they seemed very quiet, to themselves type of people,” Donovan said.