Suspect arrested in security breach that prompted John Wayne Airport evacuation

John Wayne memorial statue
The John Wayne memorial statue at John Wayne Airport in Orange County.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Orange County authorities have arrested a man suspected of causing a security breach that prompted an evacuation at John Wayne Airport on Friday night.

The incident began around 5:30 p.m., when an airport employee saw a man on the airfield in a secure area accessible only to employees, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.

The man, later identified as Johnny Hecker, 51, stole an airport vehicle and drove it onto the airfield outside Terminal C, where he stopped near a gate and tried to get into a secure area, the Sheriff’s Department said.

The airport employee lost sight of the man and notified emergency personnel, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Airport officials activated their emergency response system and Terminal C was placed on lockdown, the Sheriff’s Department said. The terminal was evacuated around 6 p.m., and authorities swept the facility and airfield.


Authorities found Hecker hidden in the ceiling of one of the airport’s terminals, the sheriff’s department said.

Hecker, a resident of San Diego who listed his occupation as “laborer” in jail records, was booked Friday night at an Orange County jail on suspicion of trespassing and vandalism.

The Sheriff’s Department and airport staff promised to conduct a “thorough investigation” to determine how Hecker allegedly breached what should have been a secured part of the airport.