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Ex-LAX TSA screener ordered held as flight risk

Nna Alpha Onuoha, 29, appears before a judge on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, in this courtroom sketch.

September 16, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A former TSA security screener at LAX accused of threats against the airport was ordered held without bond Monday.

Nna Alpha Onuoha was arrested on September 10 for making unspecified threats against airport terminals. He had recently been suspended by the Transportation Security Administration and then resigned.

On Monday, Los Angeles U.S. District Court Judge Patrick Walsh ruled Onuoha, 29, is a flight risk.

Prosecutors asked for a competency hearing and to have him held as a danger to the community, but the judge said those issues should be handled by the judge who ultimately hears the case.

The judge said, however, that if the defense presents evidence from a doctor that Onuoha is suffering from a mental illness he would reconsider.

Onuoha was charged with two federal counts of making threats to terminals at LAX.

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 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.

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.

Onuoha was arrested after being tracked down in Riverside at Arlington Avenue and Adams Street near Harvest Church late Tuesday, Sept. 10. 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.

On Wednesday afternoon, a suspicious package was found at Onuoha's apartment building on the 700 block of Hindry Avenue. After a thorough inspection, investigators determined the package was not an explosive device.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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