TSA new hire instrumental in catching alleged attacker

Wednesday, October 5, 2022
Officer Jakubowski photo

When asked why she stayed behind in an airport parking garage to comfort an attack victim, new hire Teresa Jakubowski from Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) answered, “Wouldn’t you want somebody else to be there for you?”

Jakubowski and three other trainees were walking through the parking garage on their way to a training class at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas when they heard a woman scream.

“The other trainees reached the women first because I was hanging back in the parking lot looking for the (alleged attacker),” recalled Jakubowski, who noticed a man crouching down and running between cars.

She didn’t see the alleged attacker’s face, but observed him well enough as he stepped from the darkened parking structure to offer a good description to police.

“The only time I felt anxious was when I was watching the man stand up,” said Jakubowski. “I was afraid he might turn around and see me, and I was out of sight of my group. Thankfully he did not.”

Jakubowski rejoined her colleagues and found a bike patrol security guard with the victim, a Spirit Airlines employee. She passed on to the guard what she knew about the suspect’s location outside the garage, and as her colleagues returned to class, she stayed behind with the victim.

TSA officers photo
From left, Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport TSA officer and On-the-Job Training Coach Natalie Peach observes new hire Teresa Jakubowski during an X-ray rotation. (Photo by Jacob Olson)

“She needed the comfort of another woman,” said Jakubowski. “She wrapped her arms around me and cried.”

Jakubowski was able to calm her enough to get her supervisor’s and boyfriend’s phone numbers, and although neither person answered, her reassuring actions deescalated the victim’s anxiety. The victim told Jakubowski that she bit the attacker’s arm as she struggled to get free.

“I told her she did exactly the right things and should be proud of herself,” said Jakubowski. “She decided to stay at work to be around her co-workers and feel safe, and she thanked me for staying with her and helping her.”

Once the police arrived, Jakubowski left with her instructor, who came out to the garage to check on her. She wrote a witness statement for the police and later learned that the suspect was caught within five minutes.

“I was relieved, thankful and amazed at the speed the police found him,” said Jakubowski.

Her observations helped apprehend the alleged attacker and corroborated the victim’s account of the incident. Jakubowski urges anyone else in similar circumstances to help.

“We all need a helping hand, and what you do will make a difference in the lives of everybody involved,” said Jakubowski.

Back at MSP, Jakubowski is nearing the end of her training and credits her TSA coursework for giving her a heightened sense of situational awareness.  

“The wonderful instructors at TSA have really helped me hone my observation skills, so I noticed what was not normal (a shadow moving through the cars) and kept an eye on it thinking it might be the attacker,” said Jakubowski in response to a congratulatory email from TSA Administrator David Pekoske.

Jakubowski, who made a career switch to spend more time with her husband, a TSA officer at MSP, likes her new work.

“I am enjoying my job,” said Jakubowski. “It has been a fulfilling career change. I love the interaction with the passengers and have a lot of great co-workers who are fun to be around and always are willing to help me.”

Jakubowski’s leadership is also pleased to have her on board.

“Teresa Jakubowski truly embodies the characteristics we want in our officers,” said TSA Academy West Director Micky Doto.

“Jakubowski’s actions and character are what TSA is looking for,” said Minnesota’s Federal Security Director Martin Robinson. “She is focused on the safety and security of the traveling public whether she is working or not. We expect great things from her in the future at MSP.”

By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs