Scott Gordon, NBC 5 News
The attorney of a 65-year-old woman who boarded an American Airlines flight with a handgun says his client forgot the gun was in her bag.
A woman taken into custody at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Wednesday morning was released just hours after slipping past a security checkpoint with a .38 caliber revolver in her bag.
The Transportation Security Administration said the woman, 65-year-old Judith Kenney, walked into the terminal at about 6:20 a.m. before the screening process was over.
The TSA said she picked up her bag and walked away from Terminal D's Gate 30 security checkpoint at about the same time a screener saw the gun in an X-ray scan.
Kenney's attorney, David Finn, said his client's concealed handgun permit expired this month. He said she simply forgot the gun was in the bottom of her computer bag with a power supply and other items when she left for a 7 a.m. flight to Houston.
"Clearly, she made an honest mistake," Finn said. "But did she knowingly or intentionally break the law? The answer is not, 'No.' It's 'hell no.'"
DFW Airport spokesperson David Magana said police initially did not know where Kenney was going. All five terminals were alerted to the breach because the Terminal Link Tram can take a passenger to any terminal in the airport in just nine minutes, he said.
Magana said Kenney's photo was distributed to officers throughout the airport about 30 minutes later. Several flights were boarded while officers frantically searched for the woman, he said.
Officials used surveillance footage of the security area to determine who she was, where she had gone in the terminal and what flight she was ticketed on, the TSA said.
Kenney was found on American Airlines Flight 2385 to Houston, which had left the gate but was called back by authorities. She and her bag were removed from the flight about 90 minutes after she had left the security checkpoint.
The airline said Kenney was on the flight she was ticketed for.
Other female passengers on the flight said they also were asked to exit the plane.
"They came and took us all off," Cindy Shelly recounted after she arrived in Houston. "They seized the suspect and carried her briefcase off, and she apologized. But it was very, very scary."
Kenney, of Little Elm, was brought outside of the terminal and placed into a waiting DFW Airport police car.
Her attorney said she regrets the mistake.
"She feels compassion and sympathy for the pilot, for the flight staff, for the security team, and also for the passengers," Finn said. "She had no idea the gun was in her purse."
Finn said he has represented other clients in similar situations and no criminal charges have resulted in those cases.
Kenney is expected to be charged with at least one state law violation for carrying a firearm in a prohibited location, officials said. She will not face federal charges.
She was released from police custody shortly after 1 p.m.
According to a recent report by the TSA, an average of four firearms per day were found at security checkpoints in 2011.
Just last week, TSA said it seized 20 guns and a chainsaw at airports around the country. But the vast majority of passengers with weapons are stopped at the checkpoint before being allowed to board their flights.
NBC 5's Ken Kalthoff, Lindsay Wilcox and Scott Gordon contributed to this report.