By JIM SALTER, Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Southwest Airlines pilot arrested after Transportation Security Administration agents found a loaded handgun in his carry-on luggage before his flight left St. Louis Lambert Airport will not face criminal charges, a Missouri prosecutor’s office said Friday.
“The warrant was refused today on Unlawful use of a Weapon, as we cannot prove he knowingly carried the firearm into the secure area,” Ed Magee, spokesman for St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch, said in an email. “He is still subject to FAA regulations.”
The 51-year-old pilot’s name has not been released. The TSA said he was arrested on suspicion of unlawful use of a weapon early Wednesday. Local police were alerted around 4:45 a.m. and took possession of a 9 mm Smith & Wesson M&P Shield that was loaded with seven rounds of ammunition.
outhwest said the pilot is on administrative leave while an investigation continues. An email message seeking comment from the FAA was not immediately returned.
Individuals who bring firearms to an airport checkpoint can face civil penalties of up to $12,000, the TSA said.
Southwest Airlines said the pilot was scheduled to work Flight 1106 to Las Vegas as the first officer or co-pilot. The flight was delayed 45 minutes following his arrest.
After terrorists with knives commandeered four airliners in the 9/11 attacks, Congress allowed pilots to carry loaded guns in the cockpit if they went through training overseen by TSA. Lambert Airport officials said the Southwest pilot did not have any type of authorization to carry a gun on Wednesday’s flight and didn’t have a conceal and carry permit.