How did a disarmed hand grenade wind up in the luggage of Princeville resident James Meeker and make its way from terror-stricken Bali, Indonesia, to Lihu’e Airport?
Was it a test?
No one knows the answer, exactly.
“We know it wasn’t a test,” said Shannon Garcia-Hamilton, U.S federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Lihu’e Airport. “That piece is not part of our testing.”
According to Los Angeles-based TSA spokesman Nico Melendez, “at no time was anyone in danger. It is alleged that an inert explosive made it from Bali to Kaua’i.”
Melendez and Garcia-Hamilton said U.S. security authorities obviously do not control any pre-flight screening in Bali, so it would be erroneous for someone to make the automatic assumption something went wrong with TSA procedures.
According to Garcia-Hamilton, Meeker arrived home Tuesday, Sept. 27, after a 24-hour flight that took him from Bali to Guam to Honolulu before landing on Kaua’i. He was apparently exhausted, and didn’t unpack his bags till Friday, Sept. 30, at which point he found the grenade. He told investigators he had no knowledge how it got into his luggage.
Alarmed after learning about the Bali terrorist attacks Saturday, Oct. 1, friends of Meeker suggested he talk to their son in Washington, D.C., who works as a member of a task force investigating terrorists from around the world.
Meeker spoke with Garcia-Hamilton Monday, Oct. 3, and an investiga-tion began immediately.
Meeker could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Garcia-Hamilton said members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, FBI, as well as Kaua’i Police Department officers, all mobilized, and Meeker was interviewed at 3:30 p.m. Monday.
“He did the right thing by calling the right people. If you see something, say something,” she said, referring to what individuals should do to fight terrorism.
The harmless grenade is now in a KPD evidence area. Garcia-Hamilton said there were no markings on the grenade, and that there are shops in Indonesia where one can purchase such an item.
Melendez said he knew of situations where people who traveled to the South Pacific brought back World War II items such as grenades as souvenirs.
- Andy Gross, business editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or firstname.lastname@example.org