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Ex-TSA worker charged for LAX threats; packages prompt evacuations

September 11, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A former Transportation Security Administration worker has been arrested and charged for making threats against Los Angeles International Airport.

Nna Alpha Onuoha, 29, was charged with two federal counts of making threats to terminals at LAX. He made a brief appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon that lasted about two minutes. The judge ordered Onuoha to return on Monday afternoon for a bond hearing.

The complaint against Onuoha said he "engaged in conduct with intent to convey false information or hoaxes that could lead people to believe there is a threat."

Authorities say Onuoha worked as a screener for the TSA since 2006. He had recently been placed on suspension because he ordered a 15-year-old girl to cover up, suggesting she was dressed inappropriately, according to law enforcement sources. Then on Tuesday, he resigned and left a package at the TSA headquarters at LAX addressed to an employee. TSA officials immediately contacted the FBI.

The package was treated as suspicious, but it turned out to be an eight-page letter. The document was titled "The End of America, the End of Satan, we were not defeated."

"The package did not contain explosives, but did contain an eight-page letter in which Onuoha expressed his thoughts about the incident that led to his suspension and disdain for the U.S. government, among other opinions," said Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.

Later in the day, TSA received two phone calls from a man they believed to be Onuoha, ordering the evacuation of certain terminals. The caller said he would be watching to see if TSA officials followed his directions.

Law enforcement officials did not find any threats and deemed those terminals safe.

During a search of Onuoha's Inglewood apartment, investigators found a note in his closet containing an unspecified threat, citing Wednesday's Sept. 11 anniversary.

Around 5 p.m. Wednesday, the TSA office on the 5700 block of Century Boulevard was evacuated after officials there received a suspicious package. The LAPD sent a bomb squad to investigate. The scene was cleared about 45 minutes later, and people were allowed to re-enter the building.

A law enforcement source said the package was from Onuoha. Authorities said it contained "miscellaneous papers."

Suspect arrested near Riverside church

Onuoha was arrested after being tracked down in Riverside at Arlington Avenue and Adams Street near Harvest Church late Tuesday night. Officials say around midnight, a church security guard walked up to the suspect, who was reportedly sleeping in his van. The guard told Onuoha to leave, but he returned a short time later. Security called police, and that's when police made the connection that the man in the van was Onuoha.

Riverside police arrived on scene and arrested Onuoha without incident. However, investigators found a number of items in the van and around the church property, including bags, boxes and a backpack. They were filled with religious items, like crosses and bibles. Investigators did not find anything dangerous, but they didn't take any chances.

"Based on the information of alleged bombs, we called out our technical services unit, our bomb squad. They did find several packages. I believe there were five or six controlled disruptions, rendering packages safe," said Lt. Guy Toussaint with Riverside police.

It's unknown why Onuoha was at Harvest Church. He was not known to be a member of the church.

On his website, Onuoha had several statements with religious overtones.

One statement said: "Do not expect another 9/11. What will unfold on this day and on the days ahead will be greater than 9/11; the day that America, satan, and their allies come together to celebrate and revere."

Suspicious package found at suspect's Inglewood apartment

On Wednesday afternoon, a suspicious package was found at Onuoha's apartment building in the 700 block of Hindry Avenue. According to Inglewood police, the package was addressed to his former VA counselor, Eddie Royal, who works at the building. After a thorough inspection, investigators determined the package was not an explosive device. The incident briefly shut down part of the apartment complex.

Authorities confirm that Onuoha is a former member of the military and a naturalized citizen, originally from Nigeria. He lived in veteran housing in Inglewood that helps vets who were once homeless get back on their feet. The facility helps vets find jobs, and that's how Onuoha came to work at the TSA.

Royal said he never saw any signs that Onuoha had any problems with the U.S. government. He said Onuoha always seemed to be a helpful and friendly person. The counselor said he was extremely shocked when he found out what was going on and especially when he received the package.

"It was sent overnight, like express mail. When I got it, I was shocked, because I've been seeing him on TV. What does he want with me? The only reason I would think is, I saw some of the writings on the TV, that maybe he knew I'm a minister and a pastor, and maybe that's why he sent it to me," said Royal.

Authorities did not release details about what was inside the package, only saying that it contained papers and some sort of rambling letter. The papers did not appear to be threatening but they were turned over to the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the U.S. attorney to assist in their investigation.

Fellow residents at the complex said they were surprised to hear the news about their neighbor.

"We were all in shock because we had no idea this guy would be up to do a stunt like this because we're a tight community," said resident B.J. Douglas.

The facility's director said Onuoha paid his rent on time and had not told them about his recent suspension from work.

If convicted, Onuoha faces up to 15 years in federal prison, plus fines and penalties.

Officials said security has been ramped up at LAX as well as Ontario and Van Nuys airports.

Father of teen girl in airport incident reacts to arrest

An incident this summer at LAX between Onuoha and a 15-year-old girl led to his suspension. The girl's father complained that the TSA screener made an inappropriate comment about his daughter's clothing.

According to a photo from the family, the girl was wearing black pants and a long-sleeved, red and black flannel over a white shirt when she went through airport security.

The girl said Onuoha told her, "You're only 15, cover yourself." The incident was detailed in a blog by the girl's father, Mark Frauenfelder. He said his daughter was humiliated. He and his wife then went to LAX and met with a TSA supervising officer.

Onuoha also wrote about the incident on his website.

"Regarding the incident that your daughter claimed occurred, I will never apologize to you or to whomever it may concern," he wrote. "If you need an example on how to properly dress your fifteen-year-old daughter before you send her out on a world tour in this world ruled by Satan, you should look up to Muslim women, learn how to dress your daughter like them, and not like Madonna and those like her who lack good morals."

Frauenfelder wouldn't speak on camera about Onuoha's arrest, but he issued a statement to Eyewitness News.

"I'm glad he was arrested because he made threats that were at a disturbing level, shows that the TSA did the right thing," Frauenfelder said.

Frauenfelder added that he's concerned about the screening process for TSA employees and hopes this is a wakeup call for a better screening job.


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