Man with fake bomb causes LaGuardia scare

August 1, 2009 8:49:23 PM PDT
A judge has ordered a psychiatric evaluation for a man accused of carrying a fake bomb into LaGuardia's Airport's central terminal, disrupting travel plans for thousands of people.Despite the frustrations of passengers -- authorities were taking no chances as they evacuated Saturday morning.

The scare was over in a few hours, but delays lingered throughout the day.

Air traffic is back to normal at LaGuardia now.

This is a far cry from the situation early this morning -- as passengers were forced to leave the terminal.

"It was pretty chaotic...guys in blue shirts just came flying out of no where..and everybody moved to the "A" gate," passenger Colleen Cassidy said.

It was a frantic evacuation that led to a frustrating wait. Hundreds of air travelers forced outside of LaGuardia Airport for up to three hours as the investigation unfolded. Police say a man -- identified as Scott McGann -- concealed a fake bomb in a backpack -- rigged with a phony detonator.

McGann's arraignment was initially scheduled for Saturday night, but a Queens judge postponed it so McGann could be assessed to see whether he is mentally fit to stand trial. He is due back in court Aug. 6.

The attorney who represented him Saturday didn't immediately return a telephone call.

It's unclear what the motive was, but the reaction was immediate.

"They just said you gotta evacuate, you gotta evacuate...and you gotta move further back...," passenger Michael Verrone said.

LaGuardia's central terminal was cleared as two Port Authority police officers Bobby Keane and Tom Sullivan tackled the suspect and handcuffed him.

Meantime, some passengers began sending cell phone pictures and video as they waited from a ramp leading to the terminal. The crowd continued to grow as more people began arriving for their flights. Many deciding to walk to the airport after entrances from the highway and surrounding streets were closed off.

"...I've missed every flight, so I just gotta wait until I get inside...I can catch the train, I'm just going to Baltimore," passenger Jasmine Sculark said.

"The only way to get...stand hear and wait," said passenger David Van Valkenberg.

Police say McGann fashioned the device by taping together batteries and wires designed to look like a bomb -- though there was no actual explosive. By 9:00 a.m. the terminal reopened and flights resumed with considerable delays.

Spike Lee was among those forced to wait things out.

"The only flight they could get us on was 6:40 Sunday we're facing a night in the airport," passenger Rhonda Eisenhower said.

Charges against McGann are pending.

Meantime, air travel which can be challenging at LaGuardia on a good day took most of the day to recover.

More on suspect Scott McGann

Authorities identified the man as Scott McGann, a 32-year-old who had apparently been living on New York City's streets for at least a year. McGann has been arrested in the city at least three times previously in the past two years, most recently in June, authorities said.

McGann apparently arrived at the airport dirty and disheveled, but had a valid ticket for a United Airlines flight headed to Chicago, which would have ultimately taken him to Oakland, Calif., where he has family.

Investigators say a relative in California purchased the ticket for McGann.

McGann faces charges including placing a false bomb in a transportation facility and making terroristic threats. He was expected to be arraigned Saturday night.

WEB PRODUCED BY: Lakisha Bostick