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JFK airport scare ends with arrest, no injuries

SHARE JFK airport scare ends with arrest, no injuries

NEW YORK — A gunman emerged peacefully from an empty Boeing 757 early Friday morning, ending a five-hour standoff that initially terrified passengers at John F. Kennedy Airport but ended without injuries.

The passengers were able to rush to safety, and no one was injured during the incident that began Thursday night. A motive was not determined, though the suspect's father said his son may have mental problems.

The man, identified by police as Aaron Commey, 22, faces numerous federal charges after brandishing a gun and forcing his way onto National Airlines Flight 19.

He was to be formally charged in Brooklyn federal court Friday afternoon, said FBI spokesman Jim Margolin.

The Boeing 757, bound for Las Vegas with 143 passengers and seven crew members, had been delayed by fog for about an hour but was ready to take off when the ordeal began around 10:20 p.m.

Authorities said Commey tried to walk around a security check point in front of the gate for National Airlines' Flight 19 to Las Vegas. When he was approached by a security supervisor, Commey brandished a gun and ran 40 feet down a gangway onto the plane, officials said.

The security supervisor pushed what Port Authority Executive Director Robert Boyle called a "covert button," which notifies authorities of security problems. The Port Authority runs the airport.

Alan Hicks, a Port Authority spokesman, said police arrived in less than a minute, but the man was already in the plane by then. The security staffers did what they were supposed to do, he said.

Commey pointed a gun at the pilot's head, witnesses and authorities said. As he told a flight attendant to shut the jet's door, dozens of passengers fled.

"I heard this bustle and commotion behind me at the door, and I heard a man's voice saying, 'Just secure the door. Secure the door now,' " said Frank Clark, one of those who escaped.

"Then he walked right through first class at a high rate of speed toward the cockpit. People in the aisle across from me, they said, 'He's got a gun'; that's when all hell broke loose," Clark said.

Many were able to get away, and authorities said the gunman later ordered the pilot to clear the plane of any remaining passengers.

Negotiations proved successful, and only the gunman remained on board at 1 a.m. It took two more hours to persuade him to surrender.

He first asked the Argentine Consulate for help.

Port Authority Police Chief Fred Marrone said Commey asked to go to "a South American country" and mentioned Argentina, but made no specific demands. It was not clear why he picked Argentina; police brought an Argentine diplomat to the scene who stood by until the standoff ended.

Boyle said at one point Commey also asked to be flown to Antarctica.

Commey's father, Samuel, said his son grew up in New York but moved to Milwaukee with his mother and brother several years ago.

"He wasn't responding to the help that I was giving him, just to finish school," said the elder Commey, who lives in New York. "There might be something wrong with him mentally." He said he did not know of any connection his son had with Argentina.

In Milwaukee, a neighbor, Tony Eastern, said he last saw Commey about a month ago.

"He was kind of quiet. He'd just come and go," Eastern said.

Police in Milwaukee said Commey had no record there.

Las Vegas-based National Airlines issued a statement saying neither pilot was injured and that customers were being taken care of.

National, which began service in May 1999, provides daily nonstop flights between Las Vegas and major cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. Among its investors are casino companies.

On the Net:

National Airlines: www.nationalairlines.com