The man returning from Haiti who walked through a restricted door and set off an alarm that led to the evacuation of a busy terminal at Kennedy Airport told police he went through the door by mistake, an official familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press Sunday.
The official was not authorized to comment publicly on the case against the Brooklyn man and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The security breach on Saturday afternoon delayed dozens of flights and caused headaches for hundreds of travelers who had to exit the terminal and wait for hours while police swept through the building. Passengers were then rescreened by Transportation Security Administration officers. The incident comes less than two weeks after another security breach at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Jules Paul Bouloute, 57, was scheduled to make his first court appearance yesterday on charges including first-degree criminal tampering and third-degree criminal trespass, said Helen Peterson, a spokeswoman for the Queens district attorney. Bouloute faces up to seven years in prison if convicted on the most serious charge.
Prosecutors allege that he went through a door that was clearly marked as restricted.
"As a result of the defendant's actions, thousands of people were required to evacuate and to be rescreened by TSA, causing substantial delays in the airlines' schedules," said Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown in a statement.
A neighbor of Bouloute's in Brooklyn, Saul Sanon, said he thought Bouloute went to Haiti a few times a year but said he doesn't know him that well.
"He's not a bad person," Sanon said. "I don't know exactly what happened. I think he just made a mistake; probably he was affected by the situation in Haiti."