Detailed on the NBC News affiliate in Chicago earlier today, 26-year-old Kenneth W. Smith was released from jail this afternoon after being arraigned in federal court on a charge of misleading police regarding a fake bomb threat. On Thursday morning, Smith used a public pay phone at 7:20 a.m. to call Philadelphia police and identify himself as George Michaels. Smith claimed that he had knowledge of a bombing plot regarding a passenger of a flight within the Philadelphia International Airport. Smith stated that a 29-year-old man named Christopher Shell was going to smuggle a liquid explosive past airport security. At the time of the call, it’s likely that Shell was preparing to board the plane as his US Airways flight was scheduled to leave at 8:06 a.m. destined for Dallas-Fort Worth.
As the authorities rushed to located Shell, US Airways flight 1267 took off and wasn’t notified of the situation until 8:22 a.m. At this point, the plane was ordered back to the Philadelphia International Airport.
According to CBS News in New York, Shell posted on Facebook as the plane touched down at the airport. His status message said “I’m pretty disappointed in US Airways currently. We just spent a half hour in the air to be notified that the plane “has technical difficulties” and had to fly back! Flight 1267 CANCELED.”
Heavily armed federal officers boarded the plane and ordered Shell off the plan at gunpoint. Regarding the removal of Shell, Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan stated “He was obviously very alarmed as I would be if, if heavily armed police officers entered a plane to take me off. He was certainly stunned.” Once Shell was off the plane, he and his luggage was searched for any trace of an explosive material, but nothing was found. During a conversation with the authorities, Shell guessed that the person that called in the threat could have been Smith. Shell was not charged and was allowed to take a later flight to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in order to visit his family.
When police visited Smith’s workplace and questioned him about the incident, Smith admitted to placing the call in order to get back at Shell for posting a compromising picture on Facebook of Smith’s current girlfriend. The woman in question was also Shell’s ex-girlfriend.
Smith had hatched the scheme with friends on Wednesday night and attempted to disguise his identity by giving the police a fake address and phone number during the Thursday morning call. After costing taxpayers more than $10,000, Smith was charged with “intent to convey false and misleading information” and he now faces up to ten years in federal prison in addition to a $250,000 fine if convicted.
As an added twist, Christopher Shell’s unwanted notoriety caused the Dallas police department to take notice. After Shell landed at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on late Thursday, he was immediately taken into police custody on outstanding warrants over two drug possession charges. Shell was jailed in Collin County near the Dallas area and was being held on a $3,000 bond. Shell is attempting to raise money with interviews about his story using a new, public Facebook status update.