The ground service worker charged with setting off two dry ice bombs at Los Angeles International Airport, causing a massive security response, initially removed the cooling agent from a plane cargo bay out of concern that it could harm a dog that was being loaded for transport, his lawyer said.
Dicarlo Bennett on Thursday pleaded not guilty to two charges of possession of a destructive device in a public place in connection with the dry ice bombs that exploded in a Terminal 2 toilet and on the tarmac outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal earlier this week.
Bennett faces up to six years in prison if convicted on all the charges. Los Angeles Police Department officials say Bennett staged the explosions both as a prank and out of curiosity.
Bennet's attorney, Ben Wasserman, says his client got the dry ice from a plane's cargo hold.
"He removed the dry ice from a plane to protect an animal, a dog that was being loaded. He and others were concerned about the fumes from the dry ice killing the dog," Wasserman said.
Bennett's intent was not to make a destructive device or hurt anyone, Wasserman said.
"One of the other crew members said, 'Take the dry ice out or do something with the dry ice because the carbon dioxide is harmful to the animal,' so he took the dry ice out," Wasserman said.
The attorney said Bennett told coworkers at Servisair, which provides ground services to aircraft, that he had the dry ice, so it was not a secret. Wasserman said he had yet to review the evidence prosecutors have against his client.
Wasserman said he believed authorities overcharged Bennett, given the circumstances.
"He is squeaky clean. A student, a father and hard worker," Wasserman said of the Jamaican-born U.S. citizen.
Prosecutors said they filed charges involving just two of tje three dry ice bombs found at LAX on Sunday and Monday because evidence clearly connects Bennett to two of the devices.
The devices brought the LAPD bomb squad to the airport two days in a row, delaying some flights Sunday and prompting increased security. Police officials said that there was no link to terrorism and that Bennett's intentions were his own amusement.
"He was a prankster," Deputy Chief Michael Downing said. "He thought it was funny.” Although, Downing added, “there is nothing funny about what he did."
Bennett "was an employee of Servisair at the time of the incident," the company confirmed Wednesday. A Facebook account registered in Bennett's name said he was a former ramp supervisor for the company.
Servisair officials did not elaborate on Bennett's employment status after his arrest, citing "privacy considerations." In a statement, the company said it was "cooperating with authorities and will continue to monitor the situation closely."
Downing said there was no video footage of Bennett but "plenty" of evidence linking him to the dry ice bombs.
Before Bennett's arrest, L.A. police Chief Charlie Beck said that the devices were "more of a noise device than a device that causes damage," but that officials were still taking the case seriously. He said police would push to have anyone arrested "vigorously" prosecuted.
"Whether you think this is a harmless prank or a way to disrupt operations at the airport, it won't matter," Beck said. "You will go to jail."
If convicted of the charges, Bennett faces up to six years in county jail.