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Ex-TSA agent who allegedly threatened LAX leaves trail of packages

September 12, 2013|By Ruben Vives, Richard Winton and Kate Mather

Even after a former TSA agent was arrested and charged with making threats to Los Angeles International Airport, at least two suspicious packages were found that authorities believe were sent by him.

One was discovered Wednesday afternoon at the Inglewood apartment building of ex-Agent Nna Alpha Onuoha, the other at the TSA office at LAX. Both prompted evacuations and repeat appearances by the bomb squad.

The search for Onuoha, 29, began Tuesday after the disgruntled employee resigned his position as a TSA screener.

Throughout the day and into Wednesday, authorities tracked several threatening phone calls, suspicious packages and rambling letters, including one ominous, handwritten message found in his Inglewood closet: “09/11/2013 THERE WILL BE FIRE! FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!”

On Wednesday afternoon, Onuoha's former veterans case manager received a suspicious package in the mail that was sent to the Inglewood veterans home where Onuoha lived, police said.

Eddie Roybal, the former case manager, said a staff employee told him he had received a package from the suspect.

"I was like, 'Wow, my name is on it,' " Roybal said.

He said he didn't open the 8 1/2- by 11-inch envelope and notified authorities. He described Onuoha as a quiet man who kept to himself.

"He didn't say much but hello and goodbye," Roybal said. "He never bothered anyone."

The search for Onuoha ended Tuesday night when he was found sleeping in a van parked outside Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, where he had dropped off several red crosses and letter addressed to the church’s famous pastor, Greg Laurie.

He was arrested by a Riverside Police SWAT team without incident, “oblivious” to the chaos he had created, Lt. Guy Toussaint said.

The Nigerian-born naturalized U.S. citizen lived a quiet life, according to those who knew him. They said they did not spot any signs of trouble from the former National Guard infantryman, who was deployed to Kosovo from 2005 to 2006 and spent eight years in the service.

“Every morning he had his TSA uniform on and he went to work, he came home at night,” said Judy Biggs, the vice president for development at U.S. Vets, the agency that helped Onuoha find his job and housing. “There was absolutely no sign at all that there was anything wrong.”

TSA officials said his six-year tenure at the agency had also been unremarkable — until this summer.

In June, Onuoha had a highly publicized encounter with a 15-year-old girl, the daughter of BoingBoing blog founder Mark Frauenfelder.

Onuoha criticized the girl’s choice in clothes, telling her to “cover up,” according to a federal court filing.

The TSA issued a public apology and suspended Onuoha for a week in July.

That incident appeared to trigger some of Onuoha’s bizarre ramblings, which only came to light after his resignation. In online letters posted to and signed by Onuoha, he defends his behavior and refuses to apologize.

The letters include anti-American rants and threats to deliver a “real message” on Wednesday’s 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“On the day that I release the message ... even the once mighty American government that gloats with arrogance will be reduced to nothing just like the nothing that she is,” the letter reads. “Do not expect another 9/11. What will unfold on this day and on the days ahead will be greater than 9/11.”

According to the federal affidavit, Onuoha resigned about 9 a.m. Tuesday.

About four hours later, he left a package containing an eight-page letter of his complaints over the June incident and made three calls to airport officials, warning that the “TSA was running out of time.” The “entire airport” should be evacuated immediately, he reportedly said.

Authorities raced to his Inglewood apartment, hoping to find him. But he was gone — along with all his belongings. The only thing left was the handwritten 9/11 threat in his closet.

When Onuoha was eventually arrested late Tuesday at the Riverside church, he told authorities his intentions weren’t a call to violence, according to the affidavit.

Instead, he said he planned to start “preaching in the streets.”

Authorities said they didn’t find any weapons or explosives at any of the properties they searched. But they did remove a four-foot long red cross that Onuoha  left at the church, with a hand-painted message: “Rejoice King Jesus Is Near. His Army Are Coming.”

On Wednesday, Onuoha was in federal custody on two felony charges and faces a 15-year prison sentence if convicted.


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