A Stanford professor arrested at LAX this week for carrying a World War II-era hand grenade said he put it in his luggage absentmindedly and he has been told the charges against him will be dropped.
Gary Walter Cox, 58, was arrested at Terminal 1 on Tuesday afternoon after TSA airport screeners discovered the grenade in his carry-on luggage. That forced the evacuation of the terminal’s checkpoint and prompted delays of more than two hours.
Cox, a political scientist who teaches electoral politics, was booked on a felony charge of possessing a destructive device in a public place. He was released on $500,000 bail later that evening, according to a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
About 800 passengers were affected by the delays, according to a statement from the Transportation Security Administration.
According to Cox, one of the arresting officers contacted him Friday to tell him the charges would be dropped.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department said he couldn't confirm that account. Officials at the district attorney’s office could not be reached.
Cox said both of his parents passed away in the past year, and he had flown to Los Angeles to gather his father’s effects and clear out his childhood home in Palos Verdes. He was on his way back to San Jose on Tuesday with his luggage full of mementos and heirlooms, including the Mk 2 grenade.
“At first, I didn’t even remember that I had it in there," Cox told The Times on Saturday. "It took me quite a long while peering at the screen before I understood what it was.”
Cox says he never suspected the seemingly defunct grenade could be live. His father, a retired captain in the U.S. Navy who served in the Pacific during World War II, used it as a paperweight for decades. On occasion, he even pulled out the pin and removed the handle to peer inside.
Cox’s 23-year-old son had requested the item as a way to remember his grandfather.
Instead, Cox said, an LAPD bomb squad was called in to remove and destroy the grenade.
“If I’d thought about it at all, I wouldn’t have put it into my carry-on luggage,” Cox said, calling it an honest mistake. “I was surprised to hear that it had some oomph left in it.”
Perhaps the airport confiscation was for the best, he mused: "I think [my son] would've liked to have it, but if in fact it hadn't been properly cleared out, then it's probably better that he didn't."
Nor is he likely to be the last. The agency says security screeners discover inert grenades in luggage on a weekly basis.