Phila. Int'l Airport hoax victim arrested in Dallas

September 6, 2012 6:39:37 PM PDT
The target in the Philadelphia airport hoax has been arrested in Dallas in another twist to this ongoing saga that began Thursday morning.

29-year-old Chris Shell was arrested by police Thursday night in Terminal E as he arrived at by Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Police airport from Philadelphia, airport spokesman David Magana said.

Officials say Shell faces more than one warrant from more than one municipality, but no other details were released.

Earlier in the day, Shell was taken into custody by Philadelphia police, but later released after it was determined he was a victim of a hoax at Philadelphia International Airport.

"All indications are that this was a hoax and a pretty nasty trick was played on a passenger," Philadelphia Police Inspector Joe Sullivan said at a press briefing Thursday morning.

Police say it was approximately 7:30 a.m. Thursday when a call was received at Philadelphia police airport headquarters from a person stating that a specific individual would attempt to get past TSA and board a flight to somewhere in Texas with a dangerous and hazardous substance.

"It was alleged that a male, and a name was given, would attempt to get onto an airplane en route somewhere in Texas with a dangerous or hazardous substance," Sullivan said.

Police say that information was immediately given to the FBI and TSA. It was then confirmed that the man identified in the tip call was on US Airways flight 1267 that had already departed at 7:39 a.m. to Dallas.

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The decision was made jointly by police, FBI and US Airways to order the Airbus A-319 to return to the airport.

US Airways flight 1267 arrived back in Philadelphia where Philadelphia SWAT, bomb technicians, and FBI agents stormed the plane and removed the passenger, identified as Christopher Shell.

He was handcuffed and placed on the tarmac.

Shell was then transferred into FBI custody and removed from the scene for further questioning. He was later released.

Several passengers sitting near Shell were briefly re-interviewed at the scene.

Action News spoke with another passenger on the flight by phone.

Bethlehem native Mathew Pirozzi was on his way to a golf trip in Texas when the flight was interrupted and federal agents stormed on the plane.

"Midway down the plane, they found the passenger and they drew weapons on him, got him out of his seat and got him off the plane rather quickly," Pirozzi said.

Bomb technicians and bomb sniffing dogs conducted a search of the plane and, around 9:30 a.m., the all-clear was given.

Passengers were taken off the plane and bused to the terminal where they caught other flights to their destinations.

The FBI, in conjunction with police, quickly went to work trying to identify who made the call about possible explosives on the plane.

Sources say it appears the boyfriend of the Shell's former girlfriend is behind the nefarious prank. He is now facing serious federal charges and years behind bars.

"Look at the resources that were expended and the delays to the passengers, the expense the agencies involved, and to the airport authorities," Richard Quinn of the FBI said.

"It's just an incredibly foolish and irresponsible thing to do and bottom line it's criminal," Sullivan said.

The drama not only took place in the skies over Philadelphia International, but also played out on social media.

Among those sending messages and wondering what was going on was the hoax victim himself.

Shell was clearly excited about his trip to Dallas as he snapped pictures of himself on the plane after he settled into his seat.

A half hour later, he posted this message on Facebook, "I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty disappointed in US Airways currenlty. We just spent a half hour in the air to be notified that that the plane 'has technical difficulties' and had to fly back! Flight 1267 Cancelled."

A friend commented back, "I just seen on the news that your plane has been landed because of a suspicious passenger. Are you the suspicious passenger?"

It turned out he was.

At the time he and the other passengers had no way of knowing that he was the victim of a cruel hoax.

Four days ago, Shell posted a picture of his luggage as he packed for the trip, and asked, "What should I bring?"

A friend warned him, "No weapon, that's Fosho. [sic]"

Shell wrote, "LOL, what's that supposed to mean?"

The friend responded, "Nothing towards you brother. Just saying you're flying and don't want to see a post of you being beat down at the airport. That's all, LOL."

Shell wrote back, "Just curious where your head is at. What idiot would ever think of weapons when flying? Any beat downs taking place at any airport will never involve me."


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