JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Neighbors of a man accused of making a fake bomb threat at Florida’s Jacksonville International Airport said he lived a quiet life with his wife and children and they were shocked to see him under arrest.
Zeljko Causevic remained jailed Thursday on $1 million bail on charges that he falsely told a security screener he had a bomb in his backpack as he tried to enter the airport’s passenger area Tuesday night. That caused a five-hour closure at the airport, the cancellation of dozens of flights and the stranding of passengers overnight.
The 39-year-old truck driver’s backpack only contained an electronic scale, two batteries and a microchip, authorities said.
News of his arrest spread quickly on the quiet Jacksonville cul-de-sac where Causevic lives. Neighor Eldina Kadiric said that when she saw his picture on television Wednesday, she immediately thought, “Wait, I know him.”
The news left her stunned, she said.
“It just seems like they’re normal. They’re just very normal,” she said. “They have two kids who I see playing outside all the time.” She said she doesn’t know their ages, but one is nearly a teen and the other younger.
“I feel for the family and what they are going through,” Kadiric said. “Even if it was a joke, that’s a pretty bad joke to play.”
Authorities and a witness say Causevic, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Bosnia, tried to bypass the airport’s security checkpoint and then a Transportation Security Agency agent stopped him.
According to a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrest report, Causevic told the agent he had a device in his backpack that was “supposed to be a bomb, but it’s not.”
He also told authorities he had a “detonator,” which was a remote control device.
Catherine Swan-Clark, who is seven months pregnant, was waiting to get a pat-down when she saw security agents gather around a man she believed to be Causevic.
“So you’re telling me you have a bomb?” Swan-Clark heard a TSA agent ask him. “And he responded yes, ‘I have a bomb.’”
Causevic remained silent during his brief hearing before Duval County Court Judge Russell Healey on charges of making a false report about planting a bomb and possessing a hoax bomb.
It was unclear whether Causevic was getting onto a flight, and authorities have not released a motive. The Joint Terrorism Task Force interviewed Causevic and the FBI, airport police and the Jacksonville sheriff’s office were investigating.
Phone numbers listed for Causevic were disconnected. There was no answer at the door of the family’s home.
Swan-Clark, of Atlanta, said she was waiting for a female TSA agent to let her through a gate for screening when the suspect came up next to her. He tried to make his way through but the TSA agent stopped him.
“Excuse me sir, you have to go back,” Swan-Clark, 34, said the agent told him.
Swan-Clark, who was traveling for business, said she didn’t initially think anything of it. She travels frequently and often sees people who forget to take off their coats or shoes.
“He was calm the whole time,” she said.
The man left and then tried to enter through another security lane, where an older body scanner was located. But he was again stopped.
As Swan-Clark was being screened, she saw more TSA agents gather around him and then heard him say he had a bomb.
At that point, a call went out to stop all screening and for passengers to evacuate. Swan-Clark was stuck in the screening area and unable to leave. She watched agents handcuff the suspect before being given her bags and being allowed to leave.
“I just wanted to move away from that area,” she said. “It was very scary.”
Associated Press writers Derek Kinner in Jacksonville, Fla., and Christine Armario and Freida Frisaro in Miami contributed to this report.