Los Angeles Airport Police detained three separate motorists for traveling onto Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) property with weapons during routine vehicle checkpoint inspections in a span of just four days.
The most significant discovery of weapons occurred during an inspection at 10:50 a.m. Friday, January 9th, at Century and Sepulveda Boulevards, where Airport Police stopped a motorist allegedly traveling with more than a dozen weapons, Airport Police spokesman Sgt. Jim Holcomb said.
The weapons, which consisted of ten handguns, five rifles and an antique black-powder musket, along with nearly 1,000 rounds of ammunition, were found in several boxes in the back of a Chevrolet Silverado, Holcomb said. One of the handguns and the musket were loaded.
The FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Los Angeles Police Department were involved in the investigation.
Police noted the significance of finding such a cache of weapons during a vehicle check at one of the main entrances to the airport.
“It is rare that this many weapons are discovered together at LAX,” Airport Police Chief George Centeno said. “Our officers continue to do good work in monitoring traffic and passengers to keep our airports safe.”
Holcomb said of the discovery, “It was an unusually large number of weapons at one time.”
The Silverado driver, Phillip Joseph Dominguez, 47, of Orange, was arrested and booked for felony transportation of weapons, police said. Police were trying to determine if all the weapons were registered to Dominguez and if he has legal ownership of them.
Dominguez told police that he had recently been to a gun range and still had the weapons stored in the back of his truck as he went to pick someone up at the airport, Holcomb said.
According to the Associated Press, Dominguez claims to be a law-abiding weapons enthusiast and says he was unaware that he might be breaking the law by traveling with the weapons.
Holcomb said that while Dominguez may be a gun enthusiast, people should not transport weapons into an airport.
“We’d like to stress that you don’t come to an airport with things that are going to be viewed as prohibited items,” he said.
Centeno added, “In the post-September 11th environment, it is well-known by weapon owners that airports and weapons simply do not mix.”
Just one day after Dominguez’s arrest, Saturday, January 10th, airport police stopped another motorist who was allegedly found to be driving with two shotguns, during a routine inspection at Century and Sepulveda. The driver was not arrested because the guns were not assault weapons and were not loaded, Holcomb said.
Two days later, a third motorist was detained during a vehicle check at the airport in which police allegedly found a loaded .22-caliber rifle. The driver, who told police that the weapon had been passed on to him through the family and he had forgotten it was in the vehicle, was arrested for traveling with a loaded gun, Holcomb said.
The airport police spokesman said the discovery of weapons in three different vehicles in just four days was purely coincidental.
Local elected officials praised the efforts of airport law enforcement to detect items that could potentially pose a threat to airport safety.
“While much more must be learned, this incident demonstrates why security measures at LAX are so critical,” Congresswoman Jane Harman said of the January 9th arrest. “Passengers and airport employees should be very grateful to astute checkpoint officials.”
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the LAX area, said officials were initially concerned when they learned of the cache of weapons January 9th, and that they “would rather be safe than sorry” in stopping a vehicle carrying weapons at the airport.
“I applaud [Los Angeles World Airports executive director] Gina Marie Lindsey and [director of airport law enforcement] James Butts,” Rosendahl said. “Both have done a fabulous job protecting what we know as a potential terrorist target — LAX.”