Airport Security

Loaded Gun in Carry-On Brings Long Lines at BWI

By Debbi Wilgoren and Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 23, 2006

Two concourses were evacuated for an hour yesterday morning at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport after security screeners found a loaded gun inside a carry-on bag and could not detain its owner.

The .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol was discovered at 6:40 a.m. at the security checkpoint serving concourses A and B, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration said. It was in one of two bags carried by a male passenger; the other bag had already been screened and cleared, spokesman Christopher White said.

The passenger abandoned the bag containing the gun and disappeared into the concourses, which exclusively serve Southwest Airlines, White said. Security officials evacuated the concourses at 7:11 a.m. and used police dogs to search the area.

The man was not found. The gun -- a loaded Raven Arms MP-25 pistol, according to Cpl. Jonathan Green, a Maryland Transportation Authority Police spokesman -- was turned over to police, along with other items that would be tested for fingerprints.

"It did not make it into the sterile area," said Kerry Harmon, a spokeswoman for the agency. "But the passenger had left the checkpoint, so out of an abundance of caution, we swept the terminal."

Authorities said the man likely left the airport. "He didn't fly anywhere," said Jonathan Dean, airport spokesman, as all outbound aircraft were emptied during the alert.

Security cameras captured video footage of the man. Officials did not release a description.

Both concourses reopened at 8:11 a.m. Several thousand passengers had to go through security checkpoints again. It was unclear how many missed their flights. A number of flights were held until passengers could get through the additional screening.

Lines yesterday morning stretched across the inside of the terminal building and along the sidewalk outside. The crowd included families traveling to be with relatives for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which began at sundown.

Gregory and Michelle Heelan, of LeDroit Park in Washington, were relaxed as they approached a screening table while going through security for their flight to Newport, R.I.

"We did the two-hour-early thing, like we were told," Gregory Heelan said. "We accept it all as part of the new way."

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