A janitor contracted to work at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is now behind bars for allegedly hiding two guns and ammunition in a custodian’s closet in a public terminal, though a lawyer for the man argues that his client stashed the prohibited items because he “panicked” ahead of a flight the next morning and feared he would lose his job.
On May 21, a construction worker at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport allegedly made a disturbing discovery after removing a drop ceiling tile in the Terminal 3 janitor’s closet – which was locked with an access code – to check the plumbing, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
Tucked inside of a black trash bag, the construction worker allegedly found a Ruger 9mm, a pistol, two magazines – one filled with 17 rounds of ammunition, a box containing 33 rounds of ammunition and a Sunshine Cleaning Systems hat, as per the outlet and the Miami Herald. A second black trash bag holding a blue zip handbag with a silver tag was also allegedly discovered in the ceiling tile.
Deputies with the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) soon traced the Ruger 9mm to a Pompano Beach pawnshop, where Sunshine Cleaning Systems staffer Mikenson Regis reportedly bought the weapon on May 1, according to the Herald. The Pompano Beach man is employed by the cleaning company, which is contracted by the Fort Lauderdale air hub.
BSO officials soon found CCTV footage of Regis carrying the blue handbag into the custodian’s closet on the night of May 20 when he reported for work, the affidavit states.
The 27-year-old man departed for Haiti the next morning and returned to the states on May 25, the Sentinel reports. Arrested by special agents from the Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Regis invoked his right to an attorney and declined to speak to law enforcement officials, as per the Herald.
Regis’ attorney Jennito Simon, meanwhile, alleges that his client simply “panicked” after realizing he had brought the guns with him to work in his luggage ahead of his May 21 flight out of the country.
“Essentially what happened was no different than having someone go to the airport who doesn’t know he has a prohibited item in his bag," Simon told the Sentinel. “He panicked and thought the best thing to do was hide it and deal with it when he came back.”
“Unfortunately, my client didn’t want to risk his job — once on the clock an employee is not allowed to leave the airport,” the attorney told the Herald. “My client had a plane to catch after his shift, so he panicked and thought hiding it [the gun and ammo] away from public was the safe bet to save his job.”
“There was no ill intent, just a mistake compounded by panic,” he added.
Regis was apparently able to get through security without the guns being detected as Fort Lauderdale airport workers are only subject to random searches.
Though Regis had free time in between his shift ending and his flight departing, he decided that his best option was to stash the guns and ammo, the Sentinel reports.
Regis is now being held in Broward County Jail for entering an airport area in violation of security requirements, with a bond hearing scheduled for Friday and a preliminary arraignment set for June 11.
Two years ago, in January 2017, a lone gunman opened fire near the baggage claim area in Terminal 2 of Fort Lauderdale airport, killing five people and wounding eight others.