An 83-year-old passenger boarded an American Airlines flight in Barbados last month with a loaded Ruger revolver in his pants pocket, then flew to Miami, authorities said.
The breach at Barbados’ Grantley Adams International Airport raised questions about the level of security in the Caribbean nation, a popular vacation destination. An international team from the Transportation Security Administration will travel to work with local officials on improvements, the agency said.
After passenger Cameron Hinds, from the island’s capital city of Bridgetown, landed at Miami International Airport, he sent his briefcase through a security screening ahead of his connecting flight to Orlando, authorities said.
A TSA X-ray operator discovered the .32-caliber weapon, loaded with five rounds, in the black case. Hinds was arrested by Miami-Dade Police and charged with carrying a concealed weapon.
He pleaded not guilty in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. Court records show he was released on his own recognizance pending additional court proceedings.
Hinds told police that after he went through customs, he remembered the gun in his pocket and then put it in his carry-on before reaching the TSA checkpoint.
“We are very proud of our officers who immediately intercepted the gun when the individual was going through security to transfer to a domestic flight,” TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz said. “This is a rarity, and one we take quite seriously. It highlights the reason why we do rescreen international passengers before they connect to a domestic flight in the United States.”
Koshetz declined to say whether Hinds’ actions amounted to a mistake or an intentional threat, saying that will be left to authorities in Barbados and Miami. TSA’s mission is to stop threats in either case, she said.
American Airlines declined to release details about the incident, saying the safety and security of employees and customers are its top priorities. The airline said it is working closely with law enforcement.
Barbados’ consul general in Miami, Neval Greenidge, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Greenidge told South Florida’s NBC 6, which first reported the incident, that the “blunder” came after a security agent patted down Hinds. The revolver was in Hinds’ bag, under a laptop, Greenidge told the station. But the laptop should have been removed as part of screening in Barbados, Greenidge said, adding that steps are being taken to prevent a repeat.
The TSA “partners with countries to provide assistance, guidance, and assessments to assure an airport’s security posture is in accordance with established international standards,” the agency said in a statement, noting that it does not have regulatory authority over foreign airports. The agency “took immediate action to contact the Government of Barbados and the airline to obtain additional information as an investigation was initiated in Barbados,” it said.