In one day at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) in Texas, three TSA officers (TSOs) at three different checkpoints caught three guns, all belonging to three different passengers. Each of the three officers hailed from different home airports—Colorado Springs Airport (COS), AUS and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD).
The officers from COS and ORD were temporarily deployed to Texas to support AUS TSA screening operations through the TSA National Deployment office
“I am thankful for the help, the focus and the professionalism of all AUS and national deployment officers,” said AUS Federal Security Director Gilbert Almaraz.
Early on May 15, AUS TSO Ricardo Martinez was working at checkpoint 2 when he discovered a loaded firearm, the 52nd firearm discovered at AUS this year.
“I was operating the X-ray on Lane 1 and noticed a barrel and sight appear on my screen,” said Martinez. “I had hit my ‘suspect’ button thinking it was a tip (threat image projection), but the barrel did not disappear, so I brought the bag a bit further out to get a complete image. I noticed it was also loaded.”
Austin police officers detained the Southwest Airlines passenger and took him and his property downstairs for further investigation. Police confirmed the firearm was loaded with seven total rounds and one chambered.
Less than an hour later, TSO Evelyn Lugo, a national deployment officer (NDO) from O’Hare, found a second gun at checkpoint 1, lane 2 X-ray, [TSA PreCheck®], AUS’s 53rd firearm of the year.
“I would like to say that though I have found guns before at my home airport, the gun I caught at checkpoint 1 during the early hours was my first at Austin,” said Lugo. “It was great to see the fast response from the [supervisory TSA officer], lead [officer] and law enforcement. Although Austin has a different process because of the gun laws, it was still great to see how they are handled.”
Police detained the Hawaiian Airlines passenger and took him and his property downstairs to gather additional information. An Austin police officer discovered the firearm was loaded with eight total rounds and one chambered.
Just over an hour later, TSO Christine Stewart [NDO from Colorado Springs Airport] reported a firearm was discovered on checkpoint 3, lane 2 X-ray, the 54th firearm discovered at AUS.
“I have been with TSA 20 years in September,” said Stewart. “I have found numerous weapons in checked baggage, but this was a first for me at checkpoint.”
Austin police detained the American Airlines passenger and took him and his property downstairs for further investigation. Police discovered the firearm was loaded with 10 total rounds and found an additional magazine with 15 rounds in the passenger’s carry-on bag.
“It’s unfortunate travelers still forget to check their carry-ons and will face consequences [when prohibited items are caught],” said Almaraz. “But I am more thankful for our sharp eagle eye officers who stop the threat and affirm, ‘not on my watch.’”
Editor’s note: As of May 17, AUS Officers found 54 firearms at their checkpoints in a variety of loaded/unloaded conditions, a 59% increase from 2021.
By Wayne Carey, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs