An ex-TSA worker and former National Guardsman accused of making 9/11-related threats against Los Angeles International Airport didn't show any red flags, according to those who knew him.
Nna Alpha Onuoha, who was arrested Tuesday night at a Riverside church, had been living in Inglewood at a home for U.S. Veterans and served for eight years as an infantryman in the National Guard.
U.S. Army records show that Onuoha was deployed to Kosovo from 2005 to 2006 — where he earned the rank of specialist and a handful of medals. He participated in the U.S. Vets initiative in Los Angeles, which offers services to service members adjusting to civilian life.
It was unclear when exactly Onuoha first joined U.S. Vets, but officials said he got his job with the TSA six years ago through the program. He met regularly with a case worker for three years after that, the officials said, and at some point, moved into the “permanent supportive housing” in Inglewood.
Such housing is available to veterans who meet certain criteria, such as financial stability, said Stephen Peck, the president and CEO of U.S. Vets. Support services were available to Onuoha at the Inglewood building, Peck said, but there were no signs he needed them.
“Every morning he had his TSA uniform on and he went to work, he came home at night,” said Judy Biggs, the vice president for development at U.S. Vets. “There was absolutely no sign at all that there was anything wrong.”
“People are all different, and something happened that changed this guy,” Peck added. “We just don’t know.”
Brad Bridwell, director of community development for a Cloudbreak Communities site in Inglewood — where hundreds of veterans live in low-cost apartments as they try to reintegrate into society — described Onuoha as a model tenant who never caused trouble.
“All the things that we look for to involve a greater level of services weren’t there in this case,” he said.
Larry Vaughn, a Cloudbreak employee who interacts with the veterans, described Onuoha as someone who was “always nice, always had a great smile.”
“Every interaction I had with him was great,” Vaughn said.
Staff members only learned of his resignation from the TSA when FBI agents showed up Tuesday to search the apartment.
During the search, authorities discovered a note taped inside a closet, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. The note, she added, contained “an unspecified threat citing the 9/11/13 anniversary.”
It appeared that Onuoha had “cleared out” of the apartment before his arrest, Eimiller said.
Authorities took Onuoha's threats seriously enough Tuesday that they launched a multi-agency search and considered releasing Onuoha's name to the public before he was apprehended, sources told The Times.
However, as of early Wednesday, authorities said they had not yet found any weapons or bomb-making materials.
Law enforcement sources said he “fully cooperated” after being stopped near a Riverside church where a security guard noticed him sleeping in a van.
The security guard at Harvest Christian Fellowship church asked him to leave about 11 p.m., which he did, only to come back, Riverside Police Lt. Guy Toussaint said.
When Onuoha returned, the guard wrote down the New York license plate of the van and called Riverside police, who rushed to the church about 11:40 p.m.
The Joint Terrorism Task force — including FBI agents who had been tracking Onuoha — also headed to the location. Once there, a Riverside police SWAT team approached the parking lot, Toussaint said.
"As they were approaching, he drove off. We think he was just leaving and didn't see the SWAT officers coming," Toussaint said. "They made a high-risk felony stop and he fully cooperated."
A subsequent search recovered several packages and a large red cross near the church, but no weapons or explosives. A similar cross appeared in photos that were on a website where several rambling letters signed by Onuoha include references to 9/11 and the "end of the world." He also ranted about a June incident that sources said led to Onuoha's TSA suspension when he chastised a teenage girl about her attire.
Another 17-page letter harshly criticizes the United States, saying "America is nothing but a great Harlot that corrupts the innocent." The letter, dated Aug. 25, promised to deliver a "real message" on Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
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