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New York City's LaGuardia terminal evacuated; homeless man arrested

Travelers gather outside New York City's LaGuardia Airport during an evacuation Saturday morning.  Many travel plans were put on hold.
Travelers gather outside New York City's LaGuardia Airport during an evacuation Saturday morning. Many travel plans were put on hold.
Ron Beard, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Air travelers at New York's LaGuardia Airport found themselves in a mess of delays and missed connections Saturday after a homeless man carried a fake bomb into its central terminal, authorities said.

LaGuardia's central terminal was evacuated for several hours after the man entered the building with the phony explosive in a bag, then acted like he was trying to detonate it, police said.

The episode ended with a quick arrest, but it disrupted travel plans for thousands of people as flights were postponed and vehicle traffic to the airport was briefly halted. Delays also rippled across the country as airlines adjusted their schedules.

Late Saturday, a judge ordered a psychiatric examination for the suspect, Scott McGann, a 32-year-old who had apparently been living on New York City's streets for at least a year. McGann has been arrested in the city at least three times previously in the past two years, most recently in June, authorities said. He gave prosecutors a Manhattan address that does not exist, according to city property records.

McGann "is clearly a very troubled young man," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a release.

McGann's arraignment, on charges including placing a false bomb in a transportation facility and making a terrorist threat, was postponed for a mental exam to determine if he is fit to stand trial. He was held without bail, pending a court appearance Thursday. An attorney who represented him in court did not immediately return a telephone call.

The terminal was evacuated at around 5:30 a.m. Investigators quickly determined that the device wasn't dangerous, but travelers became inconvenienced as flights were postponed and traffic backed up outside. Passengers didn't get back in to the terminal until close to 9 a.m., and Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Holly Baker said LaGuardia was closed to many incoming flights from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

The airport was running normally by Saturday evening, and there were no lingering flight delays around the country related to the incident, Baker said.

LaGuardia handles about 70 flights per hour, both departures and arrivals.