Former TSA screener incompetent for trial on LAX threats, judge rules

A former TSA screener arrested on six federal charges after allegedly making a series of 9/11-related threats against LAX is not mentally competent to stand trial and must get treatment, a judge ruled Monday.

Nna Alpha Onuoha, 30, is accused of intentionally conveying false information and making telephonic threats against the airport after resigning last Sept. 10 from his TSA job.

U.S. Dist. Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, after reviewing a mental health evaluation of Onuoha, determined he suffers from a mental disorder and cannot help in his own defense. She immediately ordered him into treatment.

Onuoha could be tried at a later date if he is determined to be competent, authorities say.


During a recent brief court hearing, Onuoha made a rambling statement that he was only doing the work of God. Prosecutors have previously insisted Onuoha lived a normal existence until the events of last September.

Onuoha was charged the day after his arrest and later indicted by a grand jury. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted of all the charges.

The multiagency search for the Nigerian-born, naturalized U.S. citizen unfolded the morning of Sept. 10 after he resigned from his TSA job and allegedly left behind a trail of threats depicted in phone calls, suspicious packages and rambling letters.

According to a federal affidavit, Onuoha returned to LAX about four hours after he resigned, leaving behind a package containing an eight-page letter about his complaints over a June incident that led to his suspension.


Onuoha then allegedly made three calls to airport officials, warning the “TSA was running out of time” and the “entire airport” should be evacuated immediately.

Authorities went to the Onuoha’s Inglewood apartment -- where the former National Guard infantryman lived in a complex for military veterans -- but found no sign of him. Onuoha was gone, along with his belongings, authorities said.

The only thing left behind, according to the affidavit, was a handwritten note in his closet, reading: “09/11/2013 THERE WILL BE FIRE! FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!”

The search for Onuoha ended when a security guard spotted the suspect sleeping in a van parked at a Riverside church. He was arrested by a Riverside Police Department SWAT team without incident, “oblivious” to the search, Lt. Guy Toussaint said.

When Onuoha was arrested, he told authorities did not intend a call to violence, according to the affidavit. Instead, he planned to start “preaching in the streets,” he said.

Authorities also unearthed several online letters signed by Onuoha that included anti-American statements, references to the “end of the world” and a promise to deliver a “real message” on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The letters also mentioned the June incident that led to Onuoha’s weeklong suspension a month later.

Onuoha, who had worked for the TSA since 2006, was suspended from July 21 to July 27 for criticizing a 15-year-old girl’s choice of clothes, telling her to “cover up,” according to the federal affidavit.


The encounter was highly publicized after the girl’s father -- BoingBoing blog founder Mark Frauenfelder -- wrote about the incident.

Additional court documents filed last week included religious-themed farewell letters Onuoha allegedly sent to acquaintances. The filing also included a Sept. 11 email between authorities stating that Onuoha had contacted Frauenfelder by email.

“Mr. Frauenfelder and his family are in fear for their safety,” the email between authorities read, “because as Mr. Frauenfalder [sic] stated, ‘if he can get my email, he can get my address.’”