Police: Employee set LAX dry ice bombs as a prank

Police: Baggage handler planted dry ice bombs at Los Angeles airport for personal amusement

Associated Press
Police: Curious worker set off LAX dry ice bombs
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A Los Angeles Police officer patrols outside the departure area at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. Police at Los Angeles International Airport are continuing their stepped-up patrols the day after the arrest of a baggage handler in connection with a pair of small explosions. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A baggage handler arrested after dry ice bombs exploded at Los Angeles International Airport planted the devices as a prank, according to police.

Los Angeles police Deputy Chief Michael Downing disclosed what authorities believe was the motive Wednesday, a day after the arrest of Dicarlo Bennett, a 28-year-old employee for the ground handling company Servisair.

"I think we can safely say he is not a terrorist or an organized crime boss. He did this for his own amusement," said Downing, who heads the department's counter-terrorism and special operations bureau.

Police ruled out terrorism because of the locations of the devices and because people weren't targeted.

No one was hurt when two plastic bottles packed with dry ice exploded in employee-only areas of the airport Sunday night. An unexploded device was found Monday night.

On Tuesday, police arrested Bennett. He was booked for possession of a destructive device near an aircraft and held on $1 million bail.

It was not immediately clear whether Bennett had a lawyer. A message left on a phone number listed at an address for Bennett was not returned.

Despite the arrest, travelers saw stepped-up security patrols at the airport Wednesday. The presence covered public areas at all terminals as well as the airfield, Los Angeles Airport Police spokeswoman Belinda Nettles said.

Bennett took dry ice from a plane and placed a loaded bottle in an employee bathroom, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation who wasn't authorized to speak publicly and asked to remain anonymous. Remnants of another device were found the same night on a tarmac outside the main international terminal.

Police had pursued a theory that the bombs were placed by a disgruntled employee due to a labor dispute. Swissport recently agreed to acquire Servisair, and the transaction is expected to close by the end of the year.

Servisair said in an emailed statement that it had no comment beyond confirming that Bennett "was an employee of Servisair at the time of incident."

Bennett was riding in a van with several other people, including a supervisor, when he decided to plant one of the dry ice bombs, the official told The Associated Press. Those in the van were aware of the dry ice, the official said, but no other arrests have been made.

The bombs were made by putting dry ice in 20-ounce plastic bottles. The explosions could have injured anyone nearby, Downing said. Dry ice is widely used by vendors at the airport to keep food fresh.

Cameras cover some of these restricted-access areas, but Downing said there isn't as much camera coverage as in the public-access areas.

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