MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - This holiday travel season, the one thing you may want to leave behind when going through Minneapolis St. Paul International, is your sense of humor, especially if you don't really have one. The Fox 9 Investigators examined bomb and terroristic threat reports at MSP for the last three years and found the number one threat, by far, happens right at the TSA security checkpoint.
It's the comments passengers made to TSA Agents. Examples such as: "That's where I normally keep my explosives," "I don't have any liquids, only my bomb" Or passengers who talked about their "dynamite personality."
Last summer, one man who boarded a Sun Country flight to Fort Myers, Florida asked the flight attendant: “Is this the flight that's going to be on the news today?” When the flight attendant asked why the flight would be on the news, the 18-year old responded, because "this is the aircraft that's going to crash."
When those comments are made, police are called, statements taken, many times passengers miss their flight, and sometimes citations are issued. According to Airport Police Chief, Mike Everson the passengers are almost instantly filled with regret, but it's too late.
"We take them very seriously unfortunately disruptive to operations," said Everson. "We have a zero tolerance for it."
A couple years ago it was a bomb threat phoned into the airport and the Mall of America. According to 911 dispatch tapes, the caller said: "I have a bomb in the woman's bathroom and the men's bathroom. Find it by 3 p.m. or it goes off."
Police traced the call and within hours arrested Dana Ashey, who would tearfully tell detectives it was only a joke. He was convicted in federal court, getting a year and nine months in prison.
It's not just people saying idiotic things that MSP police have to watch for. In recent years, the airport has become a bit of a magnet for people struggling with mental health issues.
There was serial stowaway Marilyn Hartman, who has been arrested more than a dozen times at airports across the country, and twice at MSP, attempting to sneak aboard planes.
Stanley Howard was released from a psych hospital and off his medication when he called to the airport. Captain Stan, as he called himself, claimed to have his pilot's license and knew how to fly commercial planes. Police found him at a perimeter gate, with a knife in his pocket, threatening to jump the fence and hijack one of three planes sitting 75 yards away on the tarmac. He was charged with felony terroristic threats and ordered to stay away from MSP, and because of mental competency issues sentencing was stayed and the case was recently dismissed.
Mohamed Negatu walked into the restroom near baggage claim muttering about how he hated Minnesota, and wanted to shoot people in the head. He was convicted of terroristic threats.
Levgen Chmil, from the Ukraine, was drunk and pulled off a plane after he talked about "blowing things up.” He was charged with terrorist threats and ordered to stay away from the airport. If he is not charged with another crime the charges will be dismissed within a year.
Of the more than 52 threat reports, reviewed by the Fox 9 Investigators, not one turned out to be an actual credible threat. But every idle threat or stupid comment is treated like the real thing.
AIRPORT WATCH GROUP
The Airport Watch is another set of eyes on MSP. It began a few years ago with a dozen volunteers, mostly aviation photographers. Today there are more than 100 volunteers, who assist MSP Airport Police in watching 3,400 acres of MSP property. For more information on Airport Watch you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you see any suspicious, unusual or criminal activity at MSP you can call (612) 726-5577.