Scott Gordon, NBC 5 News
An airline passenger who was escorted off a US Airways flight after someone called in a phony bomb threat was later arrested in North Texas on unrelated outstanding warrants.
Federal agents questioned two people in Philadelphia in connection with a security scare involving a US Airways flight that was bound for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday morning.
Philadelphia's NBC 10 said the FBI questioned a man and a woman in connection with a hoax that prompted US Airways Flight 1267 to return to Philadelphia International Airport about a half hour after takeoff.
Joe Sullivan, Philadelphia police chief inspector, said it looks like "a pretty nasty trick was played on a passenger."
The victim of the hoax later boarded a flight to DFW Airport, where he arrested on unrelated outstanding warrants out of Collin County.
Philadelphia Police Airport Headquarters received a call at 7:30 a.m. from an anonymous caller claiming that an unidentified man would attempt to get on a plane to Texas with a dangerous substance, he said.
Sullivan said the man who was removed from the plane committed no crime and is not being charged with any crime in connection with the security scare.
"He was obviously very alarmed, as I would be if heavily armed police officers entered a plane to take me off," he said. "He was certainly stunned. That is why this is no joke, this is no laughing matter."
NBC10 reports that Christopher Shell was removed from the airplane in handcuffs and was the victim of the hoax.
NBC10 reports that sources say Shell's former girlfriend and her current boyfriend were questioned in the case. She has been released but her boyfriend, who allegedly made the call, is expected to be charged, according to NBC10 sources.
Shell posted pictures of himself on the plane to his Facebook page shortly before takeoff. A few minutes after takeoff, the flight headed back to Philadelphia. Shell's Facebook page was then updated to say: "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."
But the cancellation was actually because of the security scare. The plane was ordered to return to Philadelphia and, moments after landing, police confronted and removed Shell from the plane.
"FBI and ATF agents came in from the back of the plane and walked up to the middle of the plane and pointed guns at a particular passenger, told him to put his hands in front of the seat, cuffed him and removed him from the plane and asked us if we'd seen some suspicious behavior," said Ira Klein, a passenger from New Jersey.
Steve McNeal, of Pennsylvania, who was on Flight 1267, said Shell was surprised when authorities took him off the plane.
"He was just as surprised as I was," he said. "He was just sitting there, looking straight forward. He was kind of, 'What's going on?' He had no clue."
McNeal said he talked with Shell while they were on the plane.
"He was talking about his mom had passed away, his dad had passed away, he was going back to Texas for his birthday," he said. "The company that he works for was paying for him to get back. [He] said he’d just broke up with his girlfriend."
McNeal said that Shell told him he had just lost his parents and that his girlfriend wasn't there for him when he needed it.
Shell, according to posts on his Facebook page, was headed home to North Texas for his 29th birthday.
He initially said he would stay in Philadelphia and was offering an exclusive interview to the media outlet that would pay him the most money but later boarded Flight 1195 to DFW Airport, which arrived at 6:10 p.m.
Upon arrival, DFW Airport police arrested Shell on outstanding warrants.
According to Collin County courts' website, Shell has two outstanding warrants from Collin County for failure to appear in court regarding a drug-possession arrest in McKinney in October 2011. The warrants were issued after Shell failed to show up in court in January, according to the website for Collin County courts.
Passengers on Flight 1267, the target of the bogus call to Philadelphia airport police, spoke with NBC 5 after they arrived in DFW. While inconvenienced, most said they were simply glad the incident was a hoax and that everyone was safe.
"I feel sorry for him, what he went through this morning, and he has very ignorant friends," said Nancy Duboff, of Denton.
"All I could think about was my family because I wasn't informed that it was a hoax," said Alberto DeLeon, of Buffalo, N.Y. "It was happening real time in front of me and, as it was happening, I just kept thinking the worst."
Sullivan said the investigation is ongoing. The person or people responsible for the prank could face several serious criminal charges and could face civil action by US Airways, he said.
NBC 5's Mark Schnyder and Ken Kalthoff and NBC10 contributed to this report.