A CD player is supposed to play music, right?
Not a CD player that came through checked baggage at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX). This one had a different tune, and two TSA officers quickly got to the bottom of this suspicious music box.
After the bag alarmed, Officers George Verhines and Tammie Glover pulled out the CD player and immediately realized it was tampered with. Verhines tested the player for explosives, but it didn’t alarm. However, he and Glover knew something was up and notified Supervisory TSA Officer Anna Amador who called Explosives Specialist Ted Cravener. Cravener disassembled the player and found a sock with a frame of a firearm wrapped in black tape.
“[The CD player] seemed much heavier than it should have been,” Verhines recalled. “I checked the battery and other compartments and discovered they were empty. There was also blue painters tape over the place where the CD would be inserted. Several knobs were also missing. The added weight and tape around the device required further investigation.”
Phoenix police were then called to the baggage area and removed a gun slide and three socks, each containing around 50 rounds of 9mm ammo hidden in the CD player. Three firearm magazines and another gun slide, all wrapped in black tape, were also discovered under the lining of the bag.
Verhines, a 15-year TSA veteran, admitted he was excited to see the cause of the extra weight and that artfully concealed, prohibited and illegal items were inside.
“This was definitely one of the highlights of my TSA career,” said Verhines. “It was my first gun [catch].”
It was also Glover’s first gun, but she admitted she had some other suspicions about the bag.
“I thought it may have been a test,” said Glover, who will celebrate her 15th anniversary at TSA in April. “The attempt at concealment was very poor. It was obvious the CD player had been tampered with.”
The passenger who owned the bag told police he has a young child at home and didn’t feel comfortable leaving the firearms there since he was traveling internationally. He said he planned to give the firearms to a family member in Washington, D.C., before flying overseas. After police impounded the passenger’s bag and firearm parts, he was arrested on weapons charges.
Verhines and Glover believe it’s a good reminder for all TSA officers that if you believe something isn’t right, keep investigating.
“Escalate, if necessary,” Verhines explained. “Be vigilant if something isn’t right. Don’t stop until you are satisfied the item is safe.”
Glover added, “Make sure you check everything. Pick up the item, look at it, look all around it. What else may be off in the bag? Keep asking questions.”
The great catch caught TSA leadership’s eyes at PHX.
“Officers Tammie Glover and George Verhines saw something was not right, followed their training and engaged with their network in calling for [Supervisory TSA Officer] Anna Amador and [Explosives Specialist] Ted Cravener’s assistance,” said TSA PHX Deputy Assistant Federal Security Director Natasha Marksberry. “This was a great catch and a wonderful team effort that led to the discovery of artfully concealed firearms and 150 rounds of ammunition. Certainly a great job by everyone involved!”
“It is very important to partner with team members and other agencies,” Glover noted. “We all have the same objective to not allow prohibited items on aircraft and to stop dangerous activities.”
By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs