Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Jet halted at LAX; two men are removed by police [Updated]

September 28, 2009 | 11:19 am

A plane was stopped from taking off from Los Angeles International Airport, and two men on board were taken into custody, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

LAPD Lt. John Romero said the men, who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent, were acting suspiciously.

A law enforcement source said at least one of the men ran into a restroom on the plane and appeared to hide while the New York-bound jet was taxiing on the runway, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing. 

The flight crew confronted the two men and made the decision to stop the plane before it took off, the source said. The men were taken into custody by heavily armed law enforcement officials.

The plane has been taken to a remote area of the airport to be searched by a bomb squad, sources said.

The LAPD's anti-terrorism unit and the FBI are on the case, but the source said it's too early to tell whether terrorism played any role in the incident.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said that she was aware of only one person being detained for questioning after the person failed to comply with airline safety regulations and directions of the crew.

[Updated at 2:10 p.m.: The FBI has determined that the passenger removed from the United Airlines flight this morning posed no “identifiable threat” to the plane or passengers and that no criminal charges are anticipated.

The passenger got up from his seat about 8:30 a.m. to use the restroom and would not comply with the flight crew's instructions to return to his seat, Eimiller said. The captain of the plane then decided to return to the gate so that the incident could be investigated, she said.

“The passenger is being interviewed in connection with the incident and is cooperative,” she said. “Out of an abundance of caution, the passengers and their carry-on luggage were rescreened and the LAPD bomb unit conducted a precautionary search of the aircraft.

"No criminal charges are anticipated, and the passengers will proceed to their destination later today.”

Initially, the LAPD said two men were taken into custody in the incident.]

-- Richard Winton