A former Transportation Security Administration screener charged with making threats regarding LAX on the eve of last week's anniversary of the 9/11 terror strikes is expected to ask a federal magistrate Monday to release him from custody to await trial.
Nna Alpha Onuoha, 29, of Inglewood, was charged with two federal counts of making threats to terminals at LAX and faces 15 years in prison if convicted. During his first court appearance in Los Angeles federal court Wednesday, Onuoha was ordered held without bail pending a detention hearing because he is considered a flight risk and a public threat.
Onuoha was arrested after a chaotic day shortly before midnight Tuesday in Riverside by members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Riverside Police Department.
The suspect, a Nigerian-born naturalized U.S. citizen who had worked for the TSA since 2006, was forced to resign from his job earlier in the day, the FBI said. He was once suspended from his job for allegedly criticizing a 15- year-old girl's wardrobe as too skimpy.
The run-in with the teen made headlines when her father publicized it on his blog.
After he resigned Tuesday -- the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks -- Onuoha allegedly left a package at the TSA's LAX headquarters addressed to an agency employee.
A Los Angeles Police Department bomb squad determined the package was harmless, but it did contain an eight-page manifesto in which Onuoha wrote about the incident that led to his suspension and expressed "disdain for the United States," according to the FBI.
Later in the day Tuesday, Onuoha allegedly called the TSA and instructed an employee to begin evacuating certain terminals at the airport. The caller told the employee that he would "be watching" to see if TSA was evacuating the terminals as he instructed," according to a federal court affidavit.
A second call was received by the TSA, again believed to have been from Onuoha, saying that specific LAX terminals should be evacuated, officials said.
Onuoha also allegedly called Los Angeles Airport Police, advising them to evacuate the airport, beginning with terminals 2, 3 and 6, according to the affidavit. No threat was found.
Members of the task force then went to Onuoha's apartment, which they found empty except for a note taped inside a closet. According to the court affidavit, the note had a handwritten message that read, "09/11/2013 THERE WILL BE FIRE! FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!"
Onuoha was arrested just before midnight while sitting in a van parked at the Harvest Church in Riverside, near Riverside Airport, officials said. A bomb squad searched the van and the parking lot, but the area was determined to be safe.
According to the affidavit, Onuoha waived his Miranda rights and told investigators the message taped to his closet "meant that he intended to start preaching in the streets on September 11, 2013."
He also allegedly told federal authorities that he did not intend for his earlier statements to be taken as threats and that he had no intent to engage in any violence.
The confrontation with the 15-year-old girl that led to his suspension was highlighted on June 16 by blogger Mark Frauenfelder, who wrote on his BoingBoing website that his daughter had been "humiliated and shamed" by a TSA agent at LAX.
Frauenfelder wrote that his daughter was traveling with a high school tour group when the TSA officer glared at her and told her, "You're only 15. Cover yourself!" Frauenfelder included a photo of the outfit his daughter was wearing.
Onuoha lived at an apartment complex for formerly homeless veterans. Police briefly evacuated the building Wednesday after a package apparently sent by the suspect to a counselor at the complex was deemed suspicious. It was eventually determined not to be a threat.
At about 4 p.m. the same day, the TSA office on Century Boulevard near LAX was evacuated after a package was received, apparently from Onuoha. That evacuation lasted about an hour before the package was examined and determined not to be a threat.