During a routine overnight shift at San Juan, Puerto Rico’s Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, a wanted felon tried to pass unnoticed through a security checkpoint.
TSA Officer Edgard Olivencia was working at the Travel Document Checker (TDC) when a passenger approached the counter. Alarm bells went off in Olivencia’s head. Earlier that morning, Olivencia saw the same name and photo on a BOLO (be on the lookout) alert from authorities about a wanted person.
“I quickly recognized the passenger’s face and confirmed it was the same person authorities were looking for by checking his name and address,” said Olivencia. “I proceeded to scan his ID and told him there was a problem with it and that I had to get clarification from a supervisor. I also asked for a second form of identification, trying to start a conversation and make him feel more comfortable.”
The passenger was wanted by the Puerto Rico Police Department, and a judge issued a global bond and arrest warrant after the man did not appear in court.
Olivencia, a one-year TSA employee, quickly moved into action.
“I radioed for a supervisor,” Olivencia recalled. “I calmly talked to the passenger saying that this ‘problem’ happens very often. I asked him where he was flying to keep the conversation going until a supervisor arrived.”
Lead TSA Officer Darrell Nadal approached the TDC, and Olivencia opened a drawer where the BOLO alert was stored, placing the passenger’s ID near the information on the BOLO. Nadal immediately understood and remained calm as he escorted the passenger to secondary screening and continued talking with the man while buying time for TSA officers to notify authorities.
“I told the passenger he needed secondary screening while our Supervisory TSA Officer, Freddie Velez, received the message,” said Nadal. “I processed the passenger as normal while Velez notified the state law enforcement officers at the checkpoint.”
Throughout both screenings, the officers held normal conversations with the suspected passenger and continued processing other passengers.
“My first priority was the safety of my officer and the traveling public,” said Velez. “The best course of action was to allow the passenger to continue the screening process without any interference to tip him off.”
After the additional screening, the passenger was retrieving his belongings at the conveyor belt when police arrived, arrested the man and escorted him out of the airport.
“It is important to pay attention to the environment we work in so we can recognize any possible threats that may compromise the security of the traveling public,” said Olivencia.
The officers’ quick reactions and composed demeanors resulted in a speedy arrest without any harm to others in the immediate area.
“I am very proud of the teamwork the officers showed in this situation,” said Deputy Assistant Federal Security Director Kimberly Carter. “It is a shining example of the commitment and dedication that is shown throughout Team Caribbean.”
By Kimberlyn Pepe, TSA Strategic Communications and Public Affairs