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Worker held in LAX bomb probe

Dicarlo Bennett, 28, is suspected of leaving 3 devices in areas that are off-limits to public.

October 16, 2013|Richard Winton and Kate Mather
  • An L.A. Airport Police officer and police dog walk through Terminal 2 on Tuesday morning. Recently, three dry-ice bombs were found.
An L.A. Airport Police officer and police dog walk through Terminal 2 on… (Al Seib, Los Angeles Times )

A Los Angeles International Airport employee has been arrested in connection with dry-ice bomb explosions, law enforcement sources told The Times late Tuesday.

The suspect was identified as Dicarlo Bennett, according to the sources.

Public records show that Bennett, 28, lives in South Los Angeles. He was arrested Tuesday in Paramount, the LAPD said.

A Facebook account registered to a Dicarlo Bennett said he studied at Santa Monica College and was a former ramp supervisor for Servisair, an airport contractor.

Earlier Tuesday, authorities said the investigation into the dry-ice bombs was focused on airport workers and was not believed to be linked to terrorism.

All three devices were found in areas off limits to the public, leading LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other officials to concentrate on airport workers -- particularly those with access to the tarmac.

"Whether you think this is a harmless prank or a way to disrupt operations at the airport, it won't matter," Beck said. "You will go to jail."

The first device -- a 20-ounce plastic bottle filled with dry ice -- was discovered about 7 p.m. Sunday after it exploded in an employee-only restroom at Terminal 2. No injuries were reported, but operations in the terminal were suspended and some flights delayed as the LAPD bomb squad cleared the scene.

More than 24 hours later, the LAPD was again notified after an airport employee found a plastic bottle that was fizzing -- but had not exploded -- on the tarmac outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal, officials said. The employee told police he had cleaned up a similar device Sunday that had apparently exploded in the same area, LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downing said. The employee said it wasn't until he spotted the bottle Monday that he realized what it was.

Another potential dry-ice bomb -- initially thought to be a fourth device -- was found on the tarmac Monday, but it was determined to be trash, police said. LAPD officials initially offered conflicting reports about the number of devices found.

Investigators were examining the devices for fingerprints, DNA and other forensic evidence, LAPD Cmdr. Blake Chow said, and are reviewing surveillance video to see whether any of them contain footage of the suspect or suspects. Detectives are also interviewing airport workers and supervisors, he said.

Authorities are exploring several potential theories, sources said, including that the dry-ice bombs could be related to growing unrest on the tarmac after a longtime service provider was taken over by another corporation. But officials cautioned that until an arrest is made, they won't know the motive.

The FBI is assisting with the investigation, and security has been increased at the airport.

Beck said the LAPD has also talked to airport officials about more closely "tracking the whereabouts" of dry ice, which he said "many, many" vendors use for food storage before loading food onto aircraft.

When dry ice is placed inside a small, enclosed space -- such as a plastic bottle -- pressure builds as it turns from a solid into carbon dioxide, a gas. That pressure can eventually force the container to burst.

Paul Worsey, an explosives expert and professor at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, said it was unlikely a dry-ice device would do much damage. "They're really not a bomb, just a noise generator," Worsey said. "It wouldn't really be effective."

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richard.winton@latimes.com

kate.mather@latimes.com

Times staff writer Robert J. Lopez contributed to this report.

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