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Suspect in airport bomb plot previously arrested after switchblade seized from checked bag

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, at 3:37 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, at 8:13 a.m.

Photos

Barry Grissom announces arrest of Terry Lee Loewen

United States attorney Barry Grissom announces the arrest of Terry Lee Loewen on terrorism charges on Friday. Loewen is accused in a plot to blow up Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport in a suicide bomb attack. (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle)

Terry Lee Loewen, accused of plotting for months to kill as many people as possible with a car bomb at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, put a double-edged knife in a checked bag in 2009, court records show.

Loewen pleaded no contest, and a Wichita Municipal Court judge found him guilty of unlawfully carrying a weapon, records say. The judge waived his fines and ordered him to pay $66 in court costs.

The incident occurred Feb. 6, 2009, according to records obtained by The Eagle on Monday.

A police report said that a Transportation Security Administration worker reported Loewen “having a double edged knife that has a spring loaded blade” at 2299 S. Airport Road, the address of Mid-Continent.

Loewen admitted to owning and possessing the black-handled switchblade knife, which authorities seized, records said.

The report said Loewen was wearing a gray T-shirt, blue jeans, white tennis shoes and a black hooded sweatshirt when police arrested him, records show.

The arrest report also indicated that Loewen had a tattoo of Jesus on his back. In an interview Saturday with The Eagle, Loewen’s ex-wife, Sarah Loewen, said their son had told her that Loewen had become a Muslim.

FBI agents arrested Loewen, an avionics technician at Hawker Beechcraft Services, shortly before 6 a.m. Friday at the airport. The 2009 report also indicated that Loewen worked at Hawker Beechcraft.

Loewen wanted to inflict the maximum number of deaths at the airport, prosecutors allege in a 21-page criminal complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Wichita. Unbeknownst to him, investigators say, the people he was conspiring with were FBI employees.

The 58-year-old faces three federal charges: one count of trying to use a weapon of mass destruction, one count of attempting to damage property, and one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization that Loewen thought was al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen.

U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said at a news conference Friday that Loewen had been under investigation by the Wichita Joint Terrorism Task Force since early summer. Loewen didn’t realize it was an FBI employee he was chatting online with when he expressed “desire to engage in violent jihad on behalf of al Qaeda,” the criminal complaint alleges.

Over a period of months, Grissom said, Loewen took a series of steps to act on the plot, as part of the jihad, or “holy war.”

According to an affidavit, Loewen:

• Studied the layout of the airport and took photographs of access points.

• Researched flight schedules.

• Assisted in acquiring components for the car bomb.

• Talked about his commitment to trigger the device and martyr himself.

Beechcraft said Friday it had suspended Loewen pending outcome of the investigation against him.

Loewen left a letter dated Dec. 11 to his family, the complaint alleged, that read in part: “By the time you read this I will – if everything went as planned – have been martyred in the path of Allah. There will have been an event at the airport which I am responsible for. The operation was timed to cause maximum carnage [and] death. … My only explanation is that I believe in jihad for the sake of Allah [and] for the sake of my Muslim brothers [and] sisters. … Fact is, most Muslims in this country will condemn what I have done. … I expect to be called a terrorist (which I am), a psychopath, and a homicidal maniac.”

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SGCountyDeb.

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