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1,700 People Evacuated at 2 Airports

Security breaches at LAX and Burbank turn out to be false alarms.

September 03, 2003|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

About 1,700 people were evacuated from Los Angeles International and Burbank airports on Tuesday after a suspicious package was found at one and a man slipped through an employees-only door at the other.

At LAX, a suspicious object found about 3 p.m. in the customs section of the Tom Bradley International Terminal turned out to be a car battery, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. But its discovery prompted a brief evacuation and delays for about 1,500 passengers.

At Burbank Airport, a man who entered a preflight waiting area via an employees entrance was a relative of a passenger and did not pose a safety threat, authorities determined. About 200 people were evacuated.

The man, 39-year-old David Houser of Agoura Hills, "was only marginally cooperative with the investigation. He gave inconsistent statements," said Lucy Burghdorf, spokeswoman for the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport.

Police released him, Burghdorf said, because "there was no evidence of criminal intent."

Houser apparently had followed an airport restaurant employee through a special door that the employee had opened by swiping a security badge, authorities said. An airline worker who spotted the slip-in sounded the alarm, and Houser was immediately intercepted.

"It appears [Houser] just didn't know any better," said airport police Chief Michael Post.

Officials are investigating whether the door failed to lock or if someone failed to make sure security doors shut after passing through, Post said.

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