- (Photo: Screen grab/KABC-TV)
Federal authorities investigating alleged threats made by a former TSA agent the evening before 9/11 that shut down airport terminals at the Los Angeles International Airport have discovered the airport screener acted alone, and found no evidence of a terror plot.
Nna Alpha Onuoha, 29, of Inglewood, Calif., was arrested outside Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., just before midnight on Tuesday, following a half-day multi-agency manhunt for the former TSA screener who had worked for the agency since 2006.
Following his resignation, Onuoha had allegedly left a package at TSA's airport headquarters that was addressed to a manager.
Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI, told KCAL-TV that Onuoha had left a resignation letter that was allegedly accompanied by the package.
He's also suspected of calling the TSA that same day and instructing employees to "begin evacuating certain terminals at the airport," the LA Times reports.
"Federal authorities said the same man called the TSA a second time, again instructing that terminals be evacuated. Police cleared the terminals, but there appeared to be no threat to the airport," Eimiller said.
According to Eimiller, the Los Angeles Police Department's bomb squad went to LAX to inspect the package and determined that it didn't contain any harmful substances or explosives; but it did contain an eight-page letter in which Onuoha "expressed his thoughts about the incident that led to his suspension and disdain for the United States."
Onuoha is in police custody and was charged Wednesday for allegedly making a false threat and making threats against interstate commerce, according to Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.
If Onuoha's found guilty and convicted of both charges, he will face up-to 15 years in federal prison.
Onuoha had his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon, but was not asked to enter a plea of guilt or innocence. The judge ruled that Onuoha will be held without bail until Monday, when the detention hearing will be continued, because he is considered a flight risk.
Although he was found asleep in his minivan by a security guard outside Harvest Christian Fellowship, church leaders told KCAL-TV that he is not a member of the church. Church staff did, however, alert employees, as well as parents of students who attend Harvest Christian School, about the situation and temporarily locked down of certain campus locations and parking lots.
Lt. Guy Toussaint of the Riverside Police Department told the local network that Onuoha "had parked in the back parking lot at the church and their security had seen him and told him to move; and based on the security information, we realized that this was the same subject that was wanted in connection with [the] LAX thing."
The Riverside Police Department and FBI found a package outside the church's café, which was treated as a potential threat, and led authorities to advise the temporary shutdown of the church campus, as a precautionary measure.
Harvest spokesman Bryan St. Peters shared with The Christian Post that John Collins, Harvest Ministries executive director and Forrest Rickard, an associate pastor, provided regular updates to parents and church employees by email, and in-person by distributing fliers to parents who didn't receive the email and drove to the campus. Throughout the morning, they received clearance from authorities to open-up parking lots and portions of the campus, until they finally received an "all clear."
Members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Riverside Police Department allege that Onuoha had placed packages and bags around the church grounds, but all were filled with Bibles and religious items, and didn't contain any harmful material.
It's still unclear if Onuoha was forced to resign from his job as a TSA screener on Tuesday, as the FBI had stated, or if he left of his own volition.
In June, Onuoha was embroiled in a controversy in which he was suspended from his job for allegedly telling a 15-year-old girl that she needs to wear modest clothing. The incident only became public after the girl's father, Mark Frauenfelder, founder of the blog Boing Boing, wrote an online post about the incident.
Along with his job at the TSA, Onuoha served in the National Guard from 2004 to 2010, and was deployed to Kosovo from 2005 to 2006 for a peacekeeping mission, and was subsequently awarded several medals for his service and reached the rank of specialist.
His Inglewood apartment, Westside Residences, a veterans' community, was searched by authorities who discovered hand-written religious notes posted to a closet door and other places in his bedroom. They also allegedly found messages about 9/11 they considered to be terroristic threats.
On his website, satanhasfallen.org, Onuoha has posted Bible scriptures and writings that contain his views on modern secular culture. Authorities allege that on his website he commented, "Do not expect another 9/11. What will unfold on this day and on the days ahead will be greater than 9/11." And in his bedroom, they claim to have found a handwritten note that states, "9/11/2013 THERE WILL BE FIRE! FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!"
According to an FBI affidavit, Onuoha told investigators that he didn't plan to commit any violent attacks, and his calls to LAX were not intended to be threatening.
"He said he wanted to start preaching in the streets beginning Wednesday, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks," according to The Associated Press.