FBI investigates how stun gun got on plane

Jul 12 2011 - 9:26am

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- A stun gun that looked like a cellphone was found aboard an empty JetBlue plane that landed at Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday night, raising questions about how the concealed weapon made it past security checkpoints.

The FBI is investigating the apparent security lapse, authorities said Monday. The thin, rectangular device was found in a seat pocket by a worker cleaning the airplane after it arrived from Boston's Logan International Airport. Authorities said it was probably left behind by a passenger.

The passenger assigned to the seat where the stun gun was found said Monday during a brief phone interview that it was not hers.

Kara Kearney, 31, an auditor at Boston University, said she moved from her assigned seat because a nearby television monitor showing the in-flight movie was not working. The stun gun was found in the pocket in front of her seat.

"It's not mine, but I really don't want to talk about it," Kearney said.

Authorities said the stun gun was most likely not intended as an in-flight weapon.

"We know who the passengers were, and based on preliminary information, it does not appear that an attack was imminent," said Bryan Travers, spokesman for the Newark FBI office. "This was more of a case of someone bringing something on a plane that they shouldn't have brought."

Travers declined further comment.

"This incident is the latest in a troubling pattern of breaches in our aviation security system," said Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security. "TSA and the FBI need to quickly determine how this stun gun made it onto a plane, and we need assurances that steps are being taken to make sure this doesn't happen again."

The stun gun, identified by authorities as a Striker 1800KV, was found on Flight 1179. There were 96 passengers and four crew members on the flight, according to JetBlue. The stun gun was in a black case and resembled a cellphone, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Such stun guns sell for about $20.

It is illegal in New Jersey to carry a stun gun, which can briefly incapacitate a person. They are also prohibited as carry-on items but may be transported in checked luggage, according to the TSA website.

A TSA representative issued a statement Monday but would not say whether the agency's screening measures would detect a stun gun.

"TSA employs multiple layers of security to minimize risk, deter future attacks and protect the traveling public," the TSA said in a statement. "Those layers include checkpoint screening technology, federal air marshals, fortified cockpit doors and armed pilots, among others both seen and unseen."

Travers said the investigation was being handled by the FBI's Boston office. A spokesman from the Boston office did not reply to a message seeking comment.

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