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Curious worker set off dry ice bombs

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POSTED October 16, 2013 10:11 p.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A baggage handler arrested after dry ice bombs exploded at Los Angeles International Airport planted the three devices out of personal curiosity, police said Wednesday.

The motive was disclosed a day after the arrest of Dicarlo Bennett, a 28-year-old employee for the aviation ground services company Servisair.

"I think we can safely say he is not a terrorist or an organized crime boss. He did this for his own amusement," said Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michael Downing, who heads the department's counter-terrorism and special operations bureau.

No one was hurt Sunday when a plastic bottle packed with dry ice exploded in an employee bathroom and another blew up on the airport's tarmac. An employee found a third plastic bottle expanding Monday night on the tarmac near where the other exploded, said LAPD Capt. Steve Sambar, who heads major crimes division.

Los Angeles Airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon said Bennett used dry ice that had been discarded into a container on the airfield after it was used to maintain the freshness of food being loaded onto a plane. The airport will now require employees to return dry ice to the warehouse and not leave it out on the tarmac.

Airport officials plan to meet with law enforcement authorities to examine other potential security enhancements at one of the nation's busiest airports.

Bennett passed the federal background checks necessary to receive a security badge for access to restricted areas, Gannon said. He was one of nearly 50,000 badged employees working at the three airports owned by the city of Los Angeles.

Bennett was arrested Tuesday and booked on suspicion of possession of a destructive device near an aircraft. He was being held on $1 million bail.

It was not immediately clear whether Bennett had a lawyer. A message left on a phone number listed at an address for Bennett was not returned.

Servisair said in a statement that it had no comment beyond confirming that Bennett was an employee at the time of incident.

Bennett was riding in a van with several people, including a supervisor, when he decided to make the dry ice bombs Sunday night, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press. Those in the van were aware of the dry ice but no other arrests have been made, according to the official, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Investigators believe the bombs were set "out of a desire to construct and experience a device exploding," said Los Angeles police Lt. John Karle. He called it foolish and negligent behavior.

Police primarily relied on interviews with witnesses and physical evidence but also reviewed surveillance video. Cameras cover some of these restricted-access areas, but Downing said there isn't as much camera coverage as in the public-access areas.

The union representing police at LAX said the incident highlights the need for the installation of more security cameras at the airport.

The bombs were made by putting dry ice in 20-ounce plastic bottles. When the bottle is sealed, pressure builds up as the solid carbon dioxide turns into gas, causing the bottle to burst.

The LAX explosions recalled a May incident at Disneyland in which police said an employee placed dry-ice-packed bottles in a food cart and trash can. Both exploded; no one was injured.

Los Angeles police Detective Paul Robi, who is on the bomb squad, emphasized Wednesday that building dry ice bombs is a felony.

He said a man was killed in 1992 while cleaning a liquor store in Los Angeles when a kid created a dry ice bomb with a glass bottle and the man picked it up. Glass shards slit his throat and he bled to death.

 

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