TAMPA, Fla. — The Transportation Security Administration says mistakes were made and that corrective action will be taken following Friday night’s security breach at Tampa International Airport when someone was able to get past a security checkpoint with a gun.
No one was injured, but the airport’s Airside F, which primarily serves American Airlines, had to be evacuated. Flights operations were delayed for about an hour and a half as passengers needed to be rescreened as a security precaution.
For regular business travelers like Deedra Walker, there's simply no room for error when it comes to security at a TSA checkpoint.
“It was quite disturbing because, I mean, we're just vulnerable,” she said of the incident. “It could be someone is just inexperienced and maybe there's some corrections that need to be made.”
The passenger who was later arrested for bringing the gun through security has been identified as 25-year-old Abraham Yacoub.
It appears when Yacoub went through security, TSA spotted what they thought might be a weapon on their X-ray machine, but apparently, agents sent the wrong carry-on bag back through for secondary rescreening.
By that time, Yacoub had taken his bag with the gun and entered the terminal. The TSA says the gun was found by airport police in a restroom trash bin.
Using security techniques, law enforcement quickly identified and located him.
“That part is still under investigation,” TPA Police Chief Charlie Vazquez said shortly after the incident. “I would say I would refer to you that that is TSA's process. I would refer you to TSA for that answer.”
TSA provided the following statement, in full, Monday afternoon:
"TSA utilizes a multi-layered approach to security and takes its role in this situation very seriously. A passenger at Tampa International Airport (TPA) was arrested by police Friday evening following a security incident at Airside F. The incident involved a firearm discovered among the man’s carry-on items.
"While the checkpoint screening technology detected the firearm, the wrong bag was flagged for additional search and the passenger collected his property and proceeded into the terminal area.
"Immediately upon noticing an incorrect bag was flagged, TSA temporarily suspended screening operations and airport police redirected all passengers to the Main Terminal while they conducted a precautionary sweep to ensure the safety and security of everyone. During the search of the airside which included use of CCTV cameras, TSA worked closely with local police, who found the firearm in a restroom trash bin. The firearm was secured by local police and the passenger was taken into custody.
"We are continuing to investigate the incident with our airport and law enforcement partners."
A TSA spokesman said the agency is taking responsibility for the mistake. Also, expect there to be corrective action taken, including retraining, as a direct result of this incident.
In the first half of this year, Tampa International recorded 67 weapons detected at TSA checkpoints. That’s up from 54 in the same time period last year.
“I think there are always going to be instances in the world that we live in now. So, it's just part of life. And I think these guys do a great job. The best they can do,” passenger Brenda Price said.
Still, others say the TSA checkpoint is one place where the potential consequences of making those mistakes are just too perilous.
“No. It's definitely something that needs to be corrected,” Walker said. “Absolutely needs to be corrected.”