Airport suspect to
face federal charges
Officials say the Kauai breach will
spur better security at isle airports
LIHUE >> The U.S. Attorney's Office in Honolulu plans to take custody of the 24-year-old Kapaa man who is accused of forcing his way into a Lihue Airport boarding area at gunpoint Thursday evening.
Kauai County Prosecutor Michael Soong said the U.S. Attorney's Office in Honolulu informed him yesterday morning that it would take Lloyd Albinio, 24, to Honolulu, where he would be charged in U.S. District Court with assaulting a federal officer.
Soong said he probably would not pursue state charges if federal charges are filed.
Albinio, who was arrested at the airport, was taken Thursday night to Mahelona Medical Center, a state mental institution on Kauai, for evaluation.
Police Chief George Freitas said if Albinio is released from the hospital before federal marshals come to arrest him, the Kauai Police Department would take temporary custody of him.
Several Kauai police officers said yesterday they do not know the suspect. Checks of telephone directories for the past decade show no one with his family name living on Kauai. His record in national law enforcement databases shows only one conviction for drunken driving, they said.
Yesterday afternoon, Kauai police were searching Albinio's Kapaa home and canvassing the neighborhood where he lives.
Yesterday, Freitas praised the work of his officers who responded to the scene Thursday night. He said they and several civilians who attempted to calm Albinio down will be recommended for county heroism commendations.
According to several agencies, Albinio went into the Hawaiian Airlines baggage area at the north end of the terminal, which is unguarded and where residents usually greet arriving passengers.
He then went the wrong way through an electric exit door into a corridor leading to the gates and allegedly pulled a semiautomatic pistol on an unarmed Transportation Security Administration guard, fired it into the ceiling and told the guard he was going into the terminal, officials said.
The suspect then ran 100 feet through a corridor leading to Gates 5 and 6, which was filled with passengers, and fired another shot into the floor, officials said. He then ordered passengers away from the Hawaiian Airlines gate, sat in a chair and pointed the gun at his head, according to police.
"When our officer arrived, he drew his gun and ordered the suspect to drop his weapon," Freitas said. "The suspect apparently released the magazine catch to show he was emptying the gun and then laid it down.
"There were several civilians here already trying to talk him out of killing himself. I have heard one was a Hawaiian Airlines pilot, but I haven't confirmed that yet."
Hawaiian Airlines officials did not return a call seeking confirmation.
The incident has state officials considering security changes at all Hawaii airports.
What happened Thursday at Lihue Airport could have happened at any state airport, said Rodney Haraga, state Department of Transportation director.
Haraga said Albinio was able to get into the lobby from the baggage claim area by pushing open two sets of automatic sliding glass doors that are supposed to open only for passengers leaving the terminal. "The first thing that we'd want to look at is changing the doors to make sure no one can push it."
The department is looking at improving all baggage claim areas and exits, adding bulletproof glass and installing a gate system between the overseas and interisland areas. Whatever renovations are made will be done in consultation with the federal Transportation Security Administration, Haraga said.
"I can expedite it. This is an emergency that we need to handle immediately."
TSA guards are stationed in the baggage claim area and inside the terminal to prevent people from entering through the exits. However, they are unarmed, Haraga said.
There are armed security guards from Wackenhut who are stationed in other parts of the airport.
Anyone who gets through the baggage claim area will have access to the gates and be able get into the planes, Haraga said.
"It's very troubling to us only because one person armed with a gun can actually breach the security area," he said.
Haraga apologized for the inconvenience the incident caused and praised the quick response by the Wackenhut guards who helped the passengers, and Kauai police who disarmed and removed the gunman.
Robert Peru, acting chief of the TSA airport security on Kauai, said security had not been increased as a result of the incident, adding, "It's business as usual."
"I want to tell them (airline passengers) that the airport is very secure. Incidents happen, and we respond to the best of our abilities," Peru said.
Most tourists interviewed at the airport yesterday were unaware of Thursday night's intrusion. The few that did hear about the incident appeared unconcerned.
"We came a little early because we thought there might be a long security delay," said visitor Rita Marcus. "There wasn't."
Michael Denning, of Vacaville, Calif., noted: "We're used to living in peril. There's no way you're going to keep all the nuts from doing crazy things."
"We're from California," added his wife, Barbara. "You get used to it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.