The former TSA agent arrested late Tuesday in connection with “unspecified threats” related to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was also involved in a high-profile incident in which he allegedly shamed a 15-year-old girl for her attire, a law enforcement official told the Los Angeles Times.
Nna Alpha Onuoha, 29, was taken into custody in Riverside before midnight after he allegedly made threats against LAX terminals earlier in the day following his resignation from his post as a screener with the Transporation Security Administration.
A source familiar with the investigation told The Times that Onuoha is the same agent who was suspended after he criticized the daughter of Mark Frauenfelder, founder of the blog Boing Boing.
[UPDATE 10:50 a.m.: Authorities also are investigating a personal website that appears to be connected to the suspect. The website published several rambling letters apparently signed by Ohnuoha that included references to 9/11, the “end of the world” and the incident that led to his TSA suspension.
One of the letters included several statements against the American government and threatened to deliver a “real message” on Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “Do not expect another 9/11,” the letter states. “What will unfold on this day and on the days ahead will be greater than 9/11.”]
The “shaming” incident was widely reported because Frauenfelder took to his site in June, saying the agent “humiliated and shamed my 15-year-old daughter.” He included a picture of his daughter’s outfit.
“It doesn’t matter what she was wearing, though, because it’s none of his business to tell girls what they should or should not wear,” he wrote. “His creepy thoughts are his own problem, and he shouldn’t use his position of authority as an excuse to humiliate a girl and blame her for his sick attitude.”
The TSA issued an apology and said they were reviewing the incident.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said Onuaha had been a screener at LAX since 2006, but recently was suspended from his job.
On Wednesday morning, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force was searching the Harvest Christian Fellowship Church in Riverside and a van in its parking lot as part of its investigation.
The search is out of an “abundance of caution” after federal agents arrested Onuoha in his van there Tuesday night, Eimiller said.
After his suspension Tuesday, Onuoha left a resignation letter and a package at the TSA’s LAX office which contained unspecified threats against the airport, a law enforcement source said.
The Los Angeles Police Department’s bomb squad inspected the package and determined that it contained no explosives or harmful substances, Eimiller said.
The package, however, contained an eight-page letter in which Onuoha expressed his thoughts about the incident that led to his suspension and his disdain for the United States, Eimiller said.
Later in the day, she said, a man who federal authorities believe to be Onuoha called the TSA and instructed an employee to “begin evacuating certain terminals at the airport.” According to Eimiller, the caller told the employee he would be watching to make sure his instructions were carried out.
Federal authorities said the same man called the TSA a second time, again instructing that terminals be evacuated. Police cleared the terminals, but there appeared to be no threat to the airport, Eimiller said.
Authorities took the threats seriously enough that they launched a multi-agency manhunt and considered releasing Onuoha’s name to the public before he was apprehended, sources told The Times.
“Based on the nature of the investigation, they’re ruling out any threat associated with the suspect and his activity in Riverside,” Eimiller said.
Several suspicious packages that Onuoha left in the van and near the church were also being searched Wednesday, she said.
While searching Onuoha’s apartment in Inglewood, members of the terrorist task force discovered a note taped inside a closet, Eimiller said. The note, she said, contained “an unspecified threat citing the 9/11/13 anniversary.”
It appeared Onuoha had “cleared out” of the apartment before his arrest, Eimiller said.
Police are also increasing security at local airports.
“In light of recent events at Los Angeles International Airport involving a disgruntled former airport worker and the 9/11 anniversary tragedy, Los Angeles airport police [have] enhanced the deployment of uniformed officers in and around LAX, Ontario and Van Nuys airports,” said LAX Police Chief Patrick M. Gannon.
“Officers will be highly visible on foot, bikes ... in patrol vehicles and managing traffic. The safety and security of the traveling public, employees and visitors is our priority and we encourage the traveling public to report all suspicious activity. If you see something, say something, security is everybody’s business”.