Bank executive Hale charged in BWI gun incident

Police chief defends how case was handled

February 05, 2011|By Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun

Edwin F. Hale Sr. was criminally charged with interfering with security procedures and violating security regulations after the chairman and CEO of First Mariner Bancorp was found with a loaded handgun in carry-on luggage at BWI Marshall Airport, police said Saturday.

Maryland Transportation Authority Police Chief Marcus L. Brown said his officers did not arrest or handcuff Hale but issued him a criminal summons ordering him to Anne Arundel County District Court at a later date. Transportation Security Administration officials discovered the gun Friday at an airport security checkpoint.

Brown said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun that the well-known banking executive from Canton, who also owns the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer team, faces up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine if he's convicted.

The new information from police about charges clears up contradictory information given by Hale and state officials. While a transportation authority spokeswoman said only that Hale had been detained, Hale said in an interview that he had been issued a criminal summons, but he did not know the precise nature of the charges. He said he had a carry permit for the gun, which he said he forgot was in his briefcase.

Brown said Hale, 64, did not get preferential treatment because of his status. In addition to running a company that is the parent of 1st Mariner Bank, Hale chairs the Baltimore Convention and Tourism Board, which includes top city executives and meets with the city's mayor and police commissioner.

"He was absolutely taken into custody," Brown said. "He was in violation of carrying a firearm into the screening area." Brown said Hale was escorted to the airport police station, where he was detained until authorities verified that his handgun carry permit was valid.

Police seized the .38-caliber handgun, and Brown said it will not be returned until after the case has been adjudicated. Brown said officers issued a summons instead of arresting Hale because "he has a valid permit and there was no reason to believe he was there to cause any threats at the airport."

Brown said it is legal for a person with a carry permit to enter Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport with a loaded gun. "The violation occurs when you enter the checkpoint," the chief said.

Hale said Friday that he "completely forgot" he had the gun as he packed and left for the airport to fly to Milwaukee aboard a Southwest Airlines flight. He was headed to watch his soccer team take on the Milwaukee Wave. He said he has had a handgun permit for 25 years. Hale could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Travelers are allowed to take only unloaded guns in checked luggage and must declare all firearms at the check-in counter, according to federal regulations. The weapons must be in locked, hard-sided cases, and each airline has its own set of rules in addition to those of the federal government.

Officials could not say Saturday how many guns have been seized at BWI over the past year, but the Transportation Security Administration says on its Internet site that its agents seized a dozen guns at airport security checkpoints across the nation between Jan. 24 and Jan. 30.

Brown said that people caught with guns often say they forgot to unpack them before coming to the airport. "Then the Police Department has a responsibility to determine if their gun permit is valid and what action to take," he said.

The chief said he talked with Hale by phone after his detention. "He explained the circumstances to me, about him forgetting his gun," Brown said.

A court date for Hale has not been set.

An earlier version had an incorrect name for the Milwaukee soccer team. The Sun regrets the error.

peter.hermann@baltsun.com

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