Ex-airport screener ordered held in threats case

AP News
Posted: Sep 16, 2013 5:52 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge on Monday ordered a former Los Angeles International Airport security screener to be held without bond after he was accused of making threats that forced the evacuation of several terminals.

U.S. District Court Judge Patrick Walsh said Nna Alpha Onuoha, 29, was a flight risk and suggested he had undergone a mental "break" and was acting irrationally when he allegedly made the threats around the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Some terminals at Los Angeles International Airport were closed for hours while authorities investigated. However, a bomb squad found no explosives or harmful contents in a package that authorities said Onuoha had sent to a Transportation Security Administration manager.

The FBI has said no other people were linked to the threats.

Onuoha, shackled and wearing a white prison jumpsuit, said nothing during the hearing in which the judge repeatedly said he did not trust him to act rationally if released.

"He was $15,000 in debt. He did not have a job. He had threatened to blow people up and he signaled to his family they would never see him again," the judge said.

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

Walsh said he would reconsider if the defense presents evidence from a doctor that Onuoha is suffering from a mental illness.

During the hearing, Onuoha's attorney Samuel Josephs had asked that his client be allowed to return to U.S. Veteran's Administration housing and be placed on electronic monitoring until his trial.

Onuoha, originally from Nigeria, served for six years in the National Guard including a deployment to Kosovo for a peace keeping mission.

He was arrested last week for investigation of making unspecified threats referencing the 9/11 anniversary. He recently resigned from the TSA after being suspended.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Mills said Onuoha had abruptly left the veteran's housing facility where he had been living, planned to live in his car and preach on the streets.