LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A former federal airport security agent suspended earlier this year for telling a teenage girl to cover herself, in an incident chronicled on her father’s blog, was charged on Wednesday with making threats against Los Angeles International Airport.
Nna Alpha Onuoha, a Nigerian-born U.S. military veteran, was arrested just before midnight on Tuesday in connection with written and telephoned threats made soon after his resignation from the Transportation Security Administration and on the eve of the 12th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
He was charged in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles with making threats affecting interstate commerce and staging a hoax, court documents showed. He was scheduled for arraignment on Wednesday afternoon.
Onuoha, a naturalized U.S. citizen, is accused of sending an eight-page letter to the TSA’s headquarters at Los Angeles airport, expressing disdain for the United States, and making two threatening phone calls to the airport, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
In the calls, a man advised security officials to begin evacuating terminals and said he would be watching to make sure they complied. Law enforcement did clear some terminals but no threat was found, Eimiller said.
Onuoha, 29, was suspended from his job earlier this year after being accused of making remarks to a 15-year-old girl who was traveling with a group of high school students on a college tour.
The girl’s father, Mark Frauenfelder, made headlines when he blogged about the incident on the website Boing Boing. He wrote that a TSA screener had glared at his daughter and mumbled to himself before telling her: “You’re only 15, COVER YOURSELF.”
Frauenfelder described his daughter as “shaken up” and said he met with TSA and airport officials over the June 16 incident, but did not identify the screener involved. Two law enforcement officials, however, confirmed it was the same agent.
The length of Onuoha’s suspension was not immediately clear, but Eimiller said that he had resigned on Tuesday afternoon, shortly before the threats were made. The written threat referred to the incident with the girl, authorities said.
Following the threats, Joint Terrorism law enforcement agents went to his apartment in a suburban Los Angeles veterans’ housing complex in Inglewood, where they found a note taped inside a closet containing an unspecified threat citing the anniversary of September 11, Eimiller said.
Onuoha was not found at home but was later arrested in his van in a church parking lot in Riverside, some 60 miles east of Los Angeles. Eimiller it was not immediately clear if Onuoha had ties to the church.
Later on Wednesday, police evacuated part of the apartment building where Onuoha lived as a precaution after finding a suspicious package there.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson