An Inside Look at Behavior Detection Officers

June 6, 2008

More than two months after being intercepted by TSA Behavior Detection Officers (BDOs) at Orlando International Airport for acting suspiciously, a passenger who allegedly attempted to smuggle bomb-making components on to an aircraft sits in jail awaiting his trial scheduled for July. Here's a closer look at what happened that day and a good example of how BDOs work to keep the traveling public safe.

April 1st was a balmy, Spring day in Orlando with the temperature in the 70s, and hundreds of passengers pouring into the airport. Dressed in plainclothes, Behavior Detection Program Manager Cleveland Laycock of TSA Orlando spotted a passenger carrying a backpack and behaving suspiciously. The man, later identified as 32-year old Kevin Brown, was pacing back and forth and had approached the ticket counter several times.

With a full beard, Brown was wearing a camouflage hat and carrying a U.S. Army duffel bag and two khaki camouflage backpacks. Laycock also noticed red tape wrapped around Brown's middle and index finger and wrist. In addition to his wardrobe, the passenger was exhibiting signs Laycock is well-trained to detect; signs that indicate stress, fear or deception.

Within a few seconds, Laycock, a former Border Patrol officer and Department of Homeland Security founding member, alerted his team. "The lines of communication between our team members was fantastic, including communicating to senior management and then with law enforcement," said Laycock, who was on his way to a briefing when he noticed Brown.

Watching from the ticketing area next to the front door of the airport and hundreds of yards from the nearest checkpoint, a team of BDOs, including Jose Zengotita, a 20-year veteran of the N.Y Police Department, tracked Brown for about two hours.

Immediately after Brown checked his luggage, Zengotita moved in to inspect the bag's contents. Working with Bomb Appraisal Officer David Platt, they discovered explosive components – enough to build an improvised explosive device, otherwise known as a pipe bomb.

Items included two galvanized pipes, end caps with holes drilled in them, two small containers with BBs, a model-rocket igniter, batteries, lighter fluid, two vodka bottles with flammable nitromethane and instructions on making explosives.

As the passenger approached the main terminal under Zengotita's watchful eye, Orlando police intercepted him. He was arrested by the FBI and charged with carrying a weapon or explosive on an aircraft.

Platt said that if Brown knew enough about building bombs, he could have easily built one using the component pieces.

Thanks to the actions of the behavior detection team, the Orlando Police Department, the Orange County Bomb Squad and the FBI, the incident ended safely, without closing a single checkpoint or delaying more than Brown's flight.

This incident is a fine example of TSA's focus on people and not things, extending security to all parts of an airport or transportation system and multi-layered approach to security.

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