PROVIDENCE - A Massachusetts man is facing a federal felony charge after trying to board a flight at T.F. Green Airport with a loaded gun, bullets and a knife in his carry-on bag, according to the police.
Ken W. Lee, 53, of Holden, Mass., was arrested Saturday afternoon when an airport baggage screener noticed the weapons as Lee's bag passed through the x-ray machine outside the boarding area, the police said.
Lee, an engineer who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Massachusetts, told the police he must have forgotten the weapons were in his bag when he packed, according to an FBI affidavit in his court file.
"This day and age, people should know," said Kevin Hopkins, acting police chief for the airport. "We have a person with a loaded gun in his bag trying to get through the checkpoint. Ignorance is not an excuse."
The U.S. attorney's office has decided to bring a felony charge against Lee, believed to be the first time such action in connection with airline security has been taken by federal prosecutors in Rhode Island, according to spokesman Thomas Connell.
Lee was about to board a 1:50 p.m. Southwest Airlines flight to Phoenix when he was detained. Authorities said they discovered a loaded handgun, 12 rounds of ammunition and a 3-inch folding knife in the side pocket of his carry-on bag.
He spent two nights in federal custody before appearing yesterday in U.S. District Court in Providence.
The slight man with neatly parted black hair was led into the courtroom at about 2:30 p.m. as his wife looked on, his hands cuffed and his ankles shackled.
U.S. District Judge David L. Martin ordered Lee released on $10,000 personal recognizance, and ordered him to surrender his personal firearms -- Lee said he had others at his home -- to the FBI.
Lee said very little at the brief hearing besides "Yes, sir" to the judge. His lawyer, Robert Mann, explained that Lee was on his way to visit his ailing 97-year-old father in Arizona when he was arrested.
Martin granted Lee permission to visit his father in the coming weeks, pending notification to the probation office.
Joseph S. Salter, the federal security director assigned to Green, said airport screeners take hundreds of guns annually from travelers in the United States. It's a serious problem, he said.
"In this case the weapon that was involved was a 357-Magnum, which is a pretty heavy-duty weapon. And there was a pretty significant amount of ammunition," he said. "There are people who seem not to have learned the lesson you cannot bring a weapon on an aircraft."
Lee was charged with carrying a weapon or explosive on an aircraft. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
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