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Galanter Orders Probe of Man's Release at Airport

Safety: Councilwoman demands explanation of why a passenger who was carrying weapons was freed by LAX police.

September 11, 1997|JIM NEWTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, responding to reports that a man stopped with a cache of weapons at Los Angeles International Airport was released without being booked by police, ordered city officials Tuesday to explain the incident and assure the public that airport security is adequate.

"It is unconscionable that in the world's third-busiest airport, a situation like this could have occurred," Galanter said in a statement released by her office. "The traveling public must have assurances that safety is not compromised at any point in LAX."

Galanter's action came in response to an incident that occurred Sept. 2 but did not come to light until this week.

In the incident, Mark Lawrence Kulp was stopped by airport police after an X-ray machine drew attention to two bags he was carrying. A search of the bags turned up a 9-millimeter semiautomatic assault pistol, a shotgun with a 20-inch barrel, knives, handcuffs, a ski mask, a fake Minnesota sheriff's badge, more than 100 rounds of 9-millimeter ammunition and several boxes of shotgun shells. Airport police then investigated Kulp and discovered that he had an outstanding warrant in Minnesota, where he was wanted for threatening police officers.

Despite all that, Kulp was not booked and was allowed to continue to Minnesota, although his guns were seized. Airport Police Chief Gilbert Sandoval said police reluctantly released Kulp for two reasons: Because the guns were not loaded, the offense was not a felony. And because officers had not seen Kulp put the bags on the X-ray conveyor belt, they lacked enough evidence to hold Kulp for a misdemeanor.

That reasoning astonished and angered some city officials. Galanter's motion directs Sandoval, along with the city attorney and general manager of the airport, to report to the council on the matter. They are expected to appear later this month before the Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which oversees the airport.

In addition, Galanter asked officials to place screening devices at the entrance to airport terminals in order to protect passengers there.

"Without such monitors, travelers, their family members, friends and others may be victims of an unthinkable massacre that could be prevented by a monitoring system which inspects for weapons at the point of entry onto airport property," Galanter said.

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