Threat closes Jacksonville airport 5 hours

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville International Airport reopened at 11 p.m. Tuesday, five hours after authorities found two suspicious packages and took two men into custody. Police said one of the packages contained “a device that had to be rendered safe,” but they didn’t elaborate.

Hundreds of jolted evacuees missed outbound flights after being told to leave the airport shortly before 6 p.m. Passengers on new arrivals disembarked onto the tarmac into shuttle buses that whisked them to nearby hotels.

Airport spokesman Michael Stewart said people could return to pick up their luggage, but he suggested that travelers check with their airlines Wednesday morning for specific flight information.

The packages were found inside the terminal and in a parking garage, Stewart said. Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office spokesman Shannon Hartley said bomb squad officers neutralized the package with the device off property. He declined to give details about the contents or where the package was located.

A witness said that he saw at least two men handcuffed in separate spots — one in the airport and one outside — shortly before 6 p.m. A second witness said he saw police throw a man to the ground outside the airport and then put him in handcuffs.

A law enforcement source told The Times-Union that the man inside the terminal told authorities he had a bomb before he was detained. Hartley declined to say anything about the men in custody.

A picture provided to the Times-Union by one witness shows police kneeling over a man lying on the ground outside the airport with a large blue duffel bag near his side. Another picture shows a handcuffed man standing by police inside the terminal.

Stewart said the FBI, Sheriff’s Office and Jacksonville Airport Authority police were involved in the investigation.

“I can’t recall since I’ve been at the airport that an entire terminal has been evacuated, and I’ve been here nine years,” Stewart said.

Jacksonville police blocked off the entrance to the airport and its garages were closed as police searched for more packages.

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