January 04, 2012

Green Beret says he didn't know explosives were in bag, complaint says

An Army Green Beret charged with trying to take explosives on an American Airlines flight over the weekend told investigators he didn't realize he had C-4 in his carry-on bag, according to a criminal complaint.
Trey Scott Atwater, 30, waived an initial court hearing Tuesday and remains in jail. He was arrested Saturday after Transportation Security Administration screeners found the explosive material in his bag.

According to the complaint, Atwater told the FBI he is a demolitions expert with the Army's 7th Special Forces Group and had recently returned from his third deployment to Afghanistan. Investigators said Atwater explained it was his practice to carry at least two blocks of C-4 explosives on any operation. He added that when he packed his bags to leave Afghanistan, he brought along the bag in question but "had no recollection of there being any C-4," the court document said.

Investigators said Atwater told them he grabbed the bag to use as a carry-on when he traveled to Midland, Texas, for the holidays and put children's items in it. The Green Beret told authorities he didn't see explosives in the main compartment of the bag and was "surprised that the C-4 was in the bag when it was located" by TSA screeners at Midland International Airport, according to the complaint.

Officials did not disclose the amount of explosives found.

The court document says Atwater had another run-in with airport security while leaving Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Christmas Eve en route to Texas when a military smoke grenade was found in his bag. "The smoke grenade was confiscated, and he was admonished before being allowed to continue on his trip," according to the criminal complaint.

When asked about the earlier incident in Fayetteville, the complaint said, Atwater admitted it had happened but that he had "forgotten to mention it" during his initial interview with law enforcement after he was arrested in Texas.

Law enforcement officials have said Atwater was not involved with anything nefarious. One official also noted he was not carrying a detonator or an initiator and therefore it would not have been possible for the material to blow up.

If convicted, Atwater would face a maximum of 10 years in prison, according to Daryl Fields, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office for the Western District of Texas.

According to the Pentagon, Atwater carries the rank of specialist first class and is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His service awards include the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal.

CNN's Larry Shaughnessy contributed to this report.

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