SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – Concerns are being raised at Mineta San Jose International Airport after a man slipped through a gate and entered a secure area over the weekend.
It happened at about 7:30 a.m. on Sunday when an intruder slipped behind an employee’s vehicle to drive onto a secure area on the south side of the airport.
“This employee noticed as he was going through the gate, before it closed, another vehicle entered as well. The protocol is to immediately notify authorities and we were notified,” said Sgt. Christian Camarillo.
Airport police quickly surrounded the vehicle, which did not make it to the runways, Officers then ordered the driver, identified as 22-year-old Alex Portillo-Bienemann of Brentwood, to get out.
Police say he first refused but then complied and said he had bombs.
“He made some spontaneous statements about swallowing an explosive device, as well as there being another one in the vehicle. Both of those statements later turned out to be unfounded. Nothing was found in the vehicle,” Sgt. Camarillo said.
Police determined the suspect was having a mental health emergency and may have overdosed on a medication.
They took him into custody for trespassing on airport property and delaying officers.
“Anytime an airport sterile area is breached by someone wanting to do harm, it’s always very serious,” said Jeff Harp, KPIX 5 security analyst and former FBI Special Agent.
Harp said what happened is known as “tailgating” and it appears protocols were not followed to prevent it in this case.
“I’m sure they will reemphasize the point that when you come through a gate, you wait till that gate is completely closed before you move on,” he said. “Everybody’s always in a hurry to get somewhere, everybody’s always got something to do but when you’re talking about an area that’s as important as an airport, you really have to take it seriously when you’re entering or exiting sterile areas.”
There was no damage to airport property, but incoming flights were diverted to a runway farther from the incident and departing flights were delayed 45 minutes because of the security breach.
Police said the suspect is being treated at a local hospital for the overdose. He will also be provided mental health services before facing charges.