RIVERSIDE (CBSLA.com) — A former Transportation Security Administration screener was charged Wednesday after allegedly making threats against the Los Angeles International Airport.
Nna Alpha Onuoha, 29, of Inglewood, was charged with two federal counts of making threats to terminals at LAX. If convicted of both counts, Onuoha faces up to 15 years in federal prison.
During his first court appearance in United States District Court Wednesday afternoon, Onuoha was not asked to enter a plea, and the judge ruled he be held without bail until Monday when the detention hearing will be continued, because he considered a flight risk and a threat.
Onuoha was arrested shortly before midnight Tuesday in Riverside by members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Riverside Police Department.
The suspect, who had worked for the TSA since 2006, was forced to resign from his job earlier in the day, the FBI said.
“Following his resignation on Tuesday, Onuoha allegedly left a package at TSA’s LAX Headquarters addressed to a TSA employee,” Laura Eimiller of the FBI said.
The package was treated as suspicious by authorities and inspected by an LAPD bomb squad.
“The package did not contain explosives or harmful substances, but did contain an 8-page letter in which Onuoha expressed his thoughts about the incident that led to his suspension and disdain for the United States, among other opinions,” Eimiller added.
Later Tuesday, a man, believed to be Onuoha, called the TSA and instructed an employee to “begin evacuating certain terminals at the airport,” according to the FBI.
The caller stated that he would be “watching” to see if the evacuations were carried out.
“A second phone call was received by TSA from a male caller believed to have been Onuoha, again advising the TSA employee that specific terminals at LAX should be evacuated,” Eimiller said.
The terminals mentioned in the call were cleared of passengers and LAX employees, however, no threat was found.
Task force members responded to Onuoha’s Inglewood apartment, the Westside Residences, A Veterans Community, and found a note taped inside a closet that made an unspecified threat citing Wednesday’s 9/11 anniversary.
The 8-page letter sent to TSA led authorities to a website satanhasfallen.org, which includes pictures of Onuoha in front of a cross and an American flag and an essay reportedly written by the suspect.
“On 9/11/13, I will release some instructions that delivers my real message to you, to America, to satan and his people in teh whole world,” the site reads. “Our Lord Our God Our Savior did not tell me to evacuate you people from the Airport, I did this part on my own. This is the only way for me to get the attention of the whole world.”
Onuoha, a former U.S. service member, was located shortly before midnight sleeping in his van at the Harvest Church, 6115 Arlington Avenue, in Riverside, local police said.
“He actually had parked in the back parking lot at a 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 LAX thing,” said Lt. Guy Toussaint of the Riverside Police Department.
The FBI and police searched Onuoha’s van as well as on church property and discovered several suspicious packages.
The packages were investigated by a bomb squad and were deemed safe after religious artifacts were found inside.
On Wednesday afternoon another package allegedly sent from Onuoha was delivered to a counselor at the Westside Residences.
“I just didn’t want to open it, I didn’t know what it was. My name was on it, but I just needed to call the authorities,” Eddie Royal said. “[Onuoha] was very quiet, he never said anything to anybody. He was really nice to me.”
The building was evacuated, but the scene was cleared when authorities discovered the package contained paper.
Airport police and LAPD officers responded to the TSA building at LAX at approximately 4:15 p.m. Wednesday after a suspicious package allegedly sent by Onuoha was located, according to Sgt. Belinda Nettles.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the building has been evacuated and a perimeter has been established. The FBI and the LAPD Bomb Squad are on scene,” Nettles said.
Westbound lanes of Century Boulevard were shut down for a short time while officials investigated. The scene was cleared at 5:35 p.m. the LAPD bomb squad determined the package contained miscellaneous papers.
LAX officials confirmed they have increased security presence at the airport.
“The safety and security of the traveling public, employees and visitors is our priority and we encourage the traveling public to report all suspicious activity. If you see something, say something. Security is everybody’s business,” Sgt. Belinda Nettles of the Los Angeles Airport Police said.
Onuoha served as a National Guard Infantryman from 2004-2012, was deployed to Kosovo from 2005-2006 and was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Kosovo Campaign Medal and others.
Unless an indictment is issued prior, a preliminary hearing was scheduled for Sept. 25, and an arraignment has been scheduled for Oct. 1.