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1 Arrested After Scare at Airport

November 17, 2001|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — A Georgia man was arrested seven hours after he ran past guards and through a passenger exit at the nation's busiest airport Friday, forcing officials to halt flights and causing a ripple effect that slowed air traffic throughout the United States.

Police said Michael S. Lasseter, 32, of Gainesville told them he had cleared security at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport but returned to the terminal to retrieve a camera bag. He said he ran down the up escalator in the exit area to avoid the long lines at a security checkpoint for fear he would miss his flight.

The security breach all but shut down the airport, as flights into and out of the city were delayed between noon and 4 p.m.

Thousands of passengers, including Lasseter, and employees waited in parking lots outside the terminal while the airport was searched, airport General Manager Benjamin DeCosta said.

According to police, Lasseter said he reentered the airport with all the other passengers and then returned to a Northwest Airlines gate area to wait for his flight. He was arrested after Northwest agents identified him from a security videotape.

Lasseter, who was being held at the airport police precinct pending federal charges, told authorities he didn't know he had been chased or that anybody was looking for him. He was traveling with his son and uncle, who made the flight, to attend today's Georgia-Mississippi football game in Oxford, Miss.

The Federal Aviation Administration halted departures, and planes in other cities destined for Atlanta were told to remain on the ground. International flights were allowed to land.

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