Feds Say Armed Man Arrested Near Obama Was Cop Wannabe

An armed man was arrested Sunday at a North Carolina airport where President Obama's plane was about to depart, but federal authorities now believe the man was only a harmless police wannabe. Joseph Sean McVey was arrested after his car, equipped with police lights and a conspicuous array of radio equipment, much of it obsolete, pulled up outside the security perimeter of the Asheville Regional Airport, according to a federal law-enforcement official, who requested anonymity when discussing sensitive information. Air Force One is said to have been taxiing in preparation for takeoff, carrying the president and his entourage.

McVey, who could not be reached for comment while in police custody, is to face a hearing in a state court today, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times. Local authorities initially charged McVey with impersonating a police officer, the federal official says, but they later dropped that charge and replaced it with a state charge of carrying a firearm "in terror of the public." Despite the fierce sounding label, the offense is only a misdemeanor under North Carolina law, and because indications at present are that McVey did not intend to threaten the president—although he knew the president was visiting the airport—federal charges may not be filed against him. Even so, a U.S. Secret Service spokesman says the agency "will definitely monitor the investigation."

The federal official says local police decided to question McVey after his car, festooned with old-style police radio antennas, drove up to an airfield entrance and stopped outside the security fence. According to the Citizen-Times, McVey got out of his car and was talking "on a handheld radio attached to a remote earpiece" when an officer approached him and "noticed he was wearing a sidearm." A police report on the incident says a local cop and Secret Service agents asked McVey for identification, but "when they ran his driver's license number through a computer, it did not come back as valid," the paper says, and when the cop asked McVey what he was up to, the suspect said "he heard the president was in town" and said he wanted to see the president. Searching McVey's car, police found "several pieces of paper with agency radio frequencies written on them and a sticky note in the cup holder with rifle scope formulas on them," the paper adds. The federal official confirms to Declassified that McVey was wearing a sidearm, but also says the man had a permit to carry the weapon gun and did not threaten anyone with it. Although McVey apparently lives in Ohio, his parents live in North Carolina, according to the federal official.

The North Carolina incident is the latest in a series of strange but unrelated security scares. Recent months have seen a rash of worrisome incidents, including death threats against leading members of Congress, the crashing of a plane into an IRS office in Texas, and a roundup of members of the bizarre Hutaree Militia in Michigan on charges of plotting to kill cops. (As Declassified reported over the weekend, the Hutaree apparently had a grudge against the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which had been investigating a gun dealer's son who was close to the militia).

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Still, federal officials say they're not receiving more threats than usual against the president these days. Although there was a sharp spike of threats against him around the time of his election, and again around the time of his inauguration, they subsequently dropped back to the levels that were recorded during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. A minor spike may have also been logged against Obama and other officials in the wake of the recent health-care vote, but reported threats against the president and other top officials have already returned to their "normal" levels.

Feds Say Armed Man Arrested Near Obama Was Cop Wannabe | U.S.