Behavior Detection Officer Checking Travel Documents and Off-Duty Police Officer Prevent Security Breach at World’s Busiest Airport

June 25, 2008

As part of a new initiative to engage Behavior Detection Officers (BDOs) in checking travel documents, BDO Joshua Wensell was working at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport's main security checkpoint when he was presented with ID that caught his attention. Wensell summoned fellow BDO Joseph Zavodny who engaged in conversation with the passenger in an attempt to verify his ID.

Upon further questioning by Zavodny and Supervisory TSO Norris Ashley III, the passenger provided a birth date and address that did not match those on the ID he presented.

Zavodny and Ashley continued attempts to verify the passenger's identity, as the passenger made several calls on his cell phone. Zavodny noticed the passenger starting to behave oddly and then suddenly take off running towards the checkpoint and the airport's secure area.

As the passenger sprinted up a security lane and toward a walk through metal detector, Zavodny followed and yelled out “breach” - instantly halting screening operations at all 22 lanes of the airport's busy main checkpoint. An off-duty Atlanta police officer who was waiting to be screened himself heard the BDO and grabbed the passenger, detaining him until officers on duty responded just seconds later. The “all clear” was sounded and normal operations quickly resumed.

The passenger was taken into custody and charged with unlawful interference with security measures and being in possession of and attempting to use fraudulent identification. He was carrying numerous types of ID with different names and remains in custody pending verification of his identity.

Had this individual made it the 20 or so yards through the checkpoint and onto the airport's train system, all flight operations at the world's busiest airport may have been halted in an effort to find this person. Hundreds of flights would have been delayed and tens of thousands of travelers across the country would have been impacted. Thanks to the quick reactions of police and instant notification of these BDOs, everyone got to where they were going on time.

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