Crime

Police: Transient entered Charlotte airport’s secured perimeter fence

A view from atop the new Hourly Deck and Consolidated Rental Car Facility at Charlotte Douglas International Airport as airplanes land and prepare to take off, on Monday, May 4, 2015.
A view from atop the new Hourly Deck and Consolidated Rental Car Facility at Charlotte Douglas International Airport as airplanes land and prepare to take off, on Monday, May 4, 2015. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police arrested a man who they said entered the secured perimeter fence at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Thursday.

George Alexander Simental, 25, was charged with trespassing on airport property and jailed on a $500 bail.

“At this time, there is no indication that Mr. Simental posed a threat to the public’s safety,” police said in a statement.

Police said airport division officers received a call at about 7 a.m. that a pilot spotted someone near the perimeter fence at the south end of the airport, near Charlotte Fire Department Station No. 41.

Police said they found Simental on the outside, public side of the perimeter fence.

Based on a statement Simental gave police and “corroborating evidence” police said they found at the scene, officers determined he’d entered the secured perimeter before police arrived. Police have not disclosed the evidence they found or said how they believe Simental entered the area.

Simental told officers he is a homeless transient from the Chapel Hill-Durham area and was traveling to Knoxville, Tenn., when he was dropped off near the airport.

Police said they contacted federal authorities about the incident.

Airport officials referred questions about how the man entered the area to police.

As to whether the airport will add more security measures as a result of Thursday’s incident, the airport said in a statement: “CLT, in conjunction with its local and federal partners, continuously evaluates security to ensure the safety of its passengers and employees.”

In April, the Associated Press reported that security has been breached six times at Charlotte Douglas, including a 2010 case in which a teenager was killed after stowing away in the wheel well of a jet.

An AP investigation found the Charlotte incidents were part of 273 perimeter security breaches at 31 major U.S. airports since 2004.

The Charlotte stowaway case involved Delvonte Tisdale, 16. The high school student stole past Charlotte’s airport security in 2010 and climbed into the wheel well of a US Airways flight bound for Boston.

He fell when the landing gear opened on approach and his body was found in a Boston suburb.

Authorities never determined how he reached the secure area, but many believed he climbed a tree with a branch that hung over a perimeter fence.

His death prompted a city review of airport security that led to CMPD taking command instead of airport authorities.

Anyone with information about Thursday’s case or Simental is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

The Associated Press contributed.

Joe Marusak: 704-987-3670, @jmarusak

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