LOS ANGELES — The 28-year-old ground service worker arrested in connection with a string of dry ice bombs at Los Angeles International Airport did it as a prank out of curiosity because “he thought it was funny,” police said Wednesday.
Dicarlo Bennett will be charged with two felony counts of suspicion of possessing a destructive device, Los Angeles police said.
One device exploded on the tarmac near passenger airliners at Tom Bradley International Terminal and another in a bathroom at Terminal 2. A third dry ice bomb was found Monday fizzing near the Bradley terminal.
LAPD bomb squad Detective Paul Robi said a dry ice bomb turned deadly in 1992 when a liquor store operator picked up a glass bottle and it exploded with the fragments “slitting his throat.”
“He bled to death,” Robi said. The bottle had been placed in the store by a juvenile, who was later convicted and sentenced to four years in California Youth Authority.
In the wake of the airport incidents, the LAX police chief said vendors who bring dry ice to the airport will have to remove it when they’re finished instead of throwing it away on the premises.
The Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association on Wednesday called for better screening of airport employees and improved and more widespread security camera technology throughout the facility.
The airport has more than 1,000 cameras in its closed-circuit video system.
Bennett, who worked for LAX ground service provider Servisair, was arrested Tuesday in Paramount, Calif., on suspicion of possessing and exploding a “destructive device near an aircraft,” police said.
“He was a prankster,” said LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downing. “He thought it was funny.” Downing added that “there is nothing funny about what he did. This is a serious pipe bomb filled with shrapnel; it is a destructive device.”
Downing said investigators found no motive other than Bennett’s own amusement.
“There is no terrorism here,” Downing said. “There is one man involved here who made some very poor choices.”
LAPD Lt. John Karle said Bennett told investigators he was curious about how such a device worked but he never intended to harm anyone. Investigators alleged Bennett did it at the airport because he was able to confiscate the dry ice from an aircraft and construct the device.
“He was very cooperative,” Karle said, referring to Bennett’s police interview.
Police said no one saw Bennett on surveillance cameras but that there was “plenty” of evidence linking him to the dry ice bombs. Bennett was identified after LAPD criminal conspiracy detectives interviewed several other airport workers, sources said.
Before Bennett’s arrest, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said that “the airport is a huge piece of property and there are concerns about places that are unmonitored. We’re trying to address those concerns with airport management.”
Beck said progress was being made, “but folks have to understand that you’re never going to have a camera in every instance. And if you’re dealing with somebody that’s very familiar with the workplace, you may not be able to capture it.”
LAX Police Chief Patrick Gannon reiterated his belief that the airport is secure. Bennett never took any of the items used to make the devices to the workplace, but acquired them there, Gannon noted.
“Once again, we want to reassure the traveling public, visitors and employees that LAX is safe and secure,” Gannon said. “Can we do with more cameras? We can always do with more cameras.”
Authorities said the dry ice bombs were found Sunday and Monday in areas off-limits to the public, leading LAPD investigators and other officials to concentrate on airport workers — particularly those with access to the tarmac.
The first device — a 20-ounce plastic bottle filled with dry ice — was discovered about 6:40 p.m. PDT Sunday after it exploded in an employee-only restroom at Terminal 2, authorities said. No injuries were reported, but operations in the terminal were suspended and some flights delayed as the LAPD bomb squad cleared the scene.
The others were reported Monday night, but investigators believe Bennett placed them there Sunday.
Investigators believe Bennett obtained the dry ice from an airliner, where it is typically used by catering services.
Bennett “was an employee of Servisair at the time of the incident,” the company confirmed Wednesday.
A Facebook account registered in Bennett’s name said he was a former ramp supervisor for the company. In a statement, Servisair declined to comment further but said the company was “cooperating with authorities and will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services