By Mark VastoIncreased security -- including random vehicle checks, increased visibility of law enforcement and K-9 patrols -- were evident at KCI Airport on September 11, the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America. But despite warnings of “actionable intelligence” and possible terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C., it was Kansas City who filed the most dramatic story of the day – and courtesy of an ex-New York City police officer.
Anthony Falco Jr., 47, faces two counts of making false statements during an alleged incident at the Southwest Airlines’ Terminal B last Sunday at around 9:30 am that triggered stopgap measures and delayed flights all across the country.
Falco faced two federal charges on Monday afternoon at the federal court in Kansas City, where he vehemently denied causing a terror threat the day previous, calling the charges “totally absurd.”
“I didn’t make any statements,” Falco told the presiding judge John Maughmer. “I love this country.”
According to court documents, Falco objected when security screeners at KCI began to scrutinize his baggage on September 11, saying that “Father God America is going to go down,” and “You guys are going to be sorry if you open those packages.”
Falco was immediately detained and security made the decision to evacuate the terminal a little before 10 am.
Upon further inspection, TSA agents said they became suspicious when their search revealed “over taped” items in Falco’s baggage. The items combined with his statement led them to conclude that he had a “simulated improvised explosive device.” That discovery led them to call in the Kansas City Police Department’s bomb squad.
Explosive devices were not discovered, however, nor were there any other telltale signs of ballistics, a fact confirmed later that day by FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton. Falco’s behavior, however, caused concern.
“I know from training and experience that people who build improvised explosive devices often use excessive tape on them,” Jonathan C. Tucker, the FBI agent and bomb technician on the scene wrote in the court documents.
Authorities alleged that Falco would not identify the property and would not give them permission to open it. In addition, the contents of the packages -- a Big Ben clock, a single A battery, iPod, digital camera, a camera battery and wires – were consistent with what screeners would single out as a time bomb.
“Two power sources, wires, a clock … and a dark mass which could have been an explosive load,” Tucker said in a statement.
In court, Falco objected to that notion.
“All of that equipment is nothing that would constitute a bomb,” Falco said. “It’s music and a cell phone.”
Nonetheless, and in a move that U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips categorized as At about 1:30 p.m., a mechanized robot hauled the suspicious items and entered them into a container outside Terminal B, where the container was then blown up.
The terminal was opened two hours later, but the air traffic and passengers all across the country were already effected. Many complained of the anxiety surrounding their delays into Kansas City – a major air travel hub that saw more than a three percent increase in passenger volume due to the success of airlines like Southwest and Frontier.
“We were in Dallas, and herded into a waiting room,” one woman told The Luminary. “We were supposed to leave that morning but didn’t get into the air until 2:30.”
According the Associated Press, the affidavit says Falco's mother, Bea Whitehead, told members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force that her son previously received psychiatric treatment in New York. The Kansas City Star reported that Falco was allegedly “off his medication” at the time of the incident. The Luminary could not confirm either statement.
If convicted, Falco faces up to 10 years in prison – five years for each count.