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Man arrested after airport screeners see bomb-like watch

November 16, 2012 |  8:58 pm

A Southern California resident is in custody after authorities say he tried to board a plane in Oakland with a watch modified by materials that could have been part of a bomb.

Geoffrey McGann, 49, of Rancho Palos Verdes was taken into custody Thursday about 7:30 p.m. in Terminal 2 of Oakland International Airport. He attracted the attention of authorities after placing a coat and an unusual watch in a plastic bin bound for the screening machine.

The watch included a toggle switch, wires and a circuit board, Sgt. J.D. Nelson, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, said Friday. 

"Apparently he was wearing it and took it off to go through the screening process," Nelson said. McGann had "all the components" to make an "improvised explosive device," except for the material that would have actually exploded, Nelson said.

McGann also had no checked bag -- another warning flag -- and was wearing shoes two sizes too big, according to authorities. In the shoes, there were homemade inserts with cavities that could be used to stash explosives, Nelson said.

McGann also was wearing a military-style shirt with a tourniquet band built into each sleeve. The shirts are available for purchase, but are not especially common, Nelson said.

“When you add it all up, it didn’t add up,” Nelson said.

But McGann did provide an explanation. The watch, he said, was art. The shoes, he told authorities, were supposed to make him look taller.

"He does do art kind of stuff, but what reasonable person would bring a watch like that into an airport and think that’s OK?"  Nelson said. "You may have a toy gun as art, but would you bring it to the airport?"

McGann also carried a backpack with him that contained no clothes, investigators said. McGann said he’d been on a business day-trip in the Bay Area and was about to return to Los Angeles.

Officers arrested McGann on suspicion of possession of materials that can be used to make a destructive device. He was being held Friday in lieu of $150,000 bail, according to Alameda County records.

The incident delayed flights for about 20 minutes, investigators said.


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-- Howard Blume