ALL NEWS

At Air Force One base, intruder given up by ‘mouse ears’

Mar 12, 2021, 5:47 AM
President Joe Biden waves as he and first lady Jill Biden board Air Force One at Ellington Field Jo...
President Joe Biden waves as he and first lady Jill Biden board Air Force One at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. The Bidens are en route to Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a highly unusual breach of security last month at the air base that operates the Air Force One presidential aircraft, an apparently aimless intruder went undetected for several hours and walked on and off an airplane on the flight line before his quirky headgear gave him away.

He was wearing what an Air Force investigative report released Thursday described as “a bright red or pink cap that partially covered his ears and had distinctive balls on top that looked a little like mouse ears.”

An airman in the operations office at Joint Base Andrews, located in Maryland just outside Washington, saw the man on the flight line and became suspicious, partly because of the headgear, and called security. Officials said he never got close to Air Force One.

“To be frank, I’m just being honest, we had no idea we had an unauthorized civilian on the base. He could have roamed around for a lot longer had it not been for that particular airman that figured out he doesn’t quite fit,” said Sami Said, the Air Force inspector general who briefed reporters on his findings.

The Feb. 4 intrusion was reported the same day by the Air Force, which opened an internal investigation to determine how it happened and what could be done to minimize chances of a repeat. The probe found three main security failings, starting with “human error” by a gate security guard who allowed the man to drive onto the base even though he had no credentials that authorized his access. Hours later, the man walked undetected onto the flight line by slipping through a fence designed to restrict entry. And, finally, he walked onto and off a parked airplane without being challenged, even though he was not wearing a required badge authorizing access to the restricted area.

The day of the incident, the officials said the intruder was turned over to local law enforcement because there was at least one outstanding warrant for his arrest. His name has not been released. The inspector general’s report said he had “an extensive arrest record,” but further details were blacked out.

“Security forces actually never saw him transition from the open gate to the aircraft,” said Said, the inspector general. Aside from his odd hat, the intruder’s clothing — dark pants and jacket and black high-top sneakers — could have made him appear to be a contractor, Said said, although he should have been challenged anyway, not least because he had no visible badge authorizing his presence.

“The good news is, once alerted, security forces apprehended him pretty darned quickly — the minute he came off the plane,” he said.

Said said the modified Boeing 747 that serves as Air Force One for presidential travel was never at risk and that it is kept behind more layers of protection at Andrews. “That area is exceptionally secure,” he said.

Unimpeded, the unarmed intruder got aboard a C-40, a transport jet primarily used by members of the Cabinet, Congress and military combatant commanders. He did no harm and the Air Force investigation report, which was heavily censored by the Air Force before it was released Thursday, concluded that he had no plan to cause harm to Air Force personnel or equipment. His purpose could not be definitively determined.

“The evidence supports the conclusion that (blank) was simply wandering around the base and did not enter the base to meet anyone,” the report said. “During questioning, (blank) said he came on base because he wanted to see airplanes.”

After driving through the Virginia Gate at Andrews, the man drove to the base exchange, where surveillance camera footage later showed he spent about an hour before returning to his car. His whereabouts for the next four hours could not be determined. Personnel at the 89th Air Wing passenger terminal recalled him entering the terminal, and he then slipped unnoticed onto the flight line through an 18-inch gap in a security fence gate that was not fully closed because of a “malfunction.”

He walked onto the C-40 aircraft, which was open to facilitate a communications training session. Two aircrew members were aboard. The intruder walked to the back of the plane and left unchallenged after a few minutes. As he walked back toward the security gate on the flight line he was stopped and arrested.

Said said that to his knowledge Andrews had never before experienced such a lapse in security.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

More Americans are struggling to pay their energy bills.  Nearly 1.5 million more U.S. households ...
Curt Gresseth

Cost of heating homes in Utah rising as thermometer sinks

The cost of heating a home in Utah is rising because demand has increased and the drought in the West has cut into production.
18 hours ago
Friday, February 3 at noon, don't miss a special hour with KSL's BYU Insider Mitch Harper....
Ike Yospe

BYU Big 12 Preview Special

Friday, February 3 at noon, don't miss a special hour with KSL's BYU Insider Mitch Harper.
18 hours ago
Shots were reportedly fired in the parking lot of Taylorsville High School on Thursday afternoon, l...
BY MADISON SWENSON, KSL TV

Teen arrested for firing shots in Taylorsville High parking lot

A 17-year-old boy was arrested in connection to the shots fired last week in the parking lot of Taylorsville High School.
18 hours ago
Mr. Murphy, a basset posing as a bee, leans in to get a sniff of 5-year-old Alex Schilling during t...
Elizabeth Weiler

Humane Society of Utah says shelters are full, adoptions are needed

The Humane Society of Utah says their shelters are filling up, especially with large breed dogs and puppies.
18 hours ago
amber alert...
Adam Small

Suspect in Layton Amber Alert charged

LAYTON, Utah– Prosecutors in Davis County have officially filed charges against a man suspected of kidnapping a 13-year-old boy, which prompted police to send out an Amber Alert in December. New charging documents allege Aaron Michael Zeman, 26, also known as Tadashi Kojima, had been communicating with the 13-year-old Layton boy as far back as […]
18 hours ago
Tyre Nichols...
CNN

MLK invoked as Tyre Nichols’ life is celebrated in Memphis

Nichols, 29, who was Black, was subdued yet continuously beaten after a traffic stop by Memphis police on January 7. He died three days later.
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
At Air Force One base, intruder given up by ‘mouse ears’