ABIA baggage handler faces up to 20 years for stealing guns

Ja'Quan Johnson (Austin Police Department Photo)
Ja'Quan Johnson (Austin Police Department Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A baggage handler who pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing guns from passenger bags at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport now faces up to 20 years in prison.

Ja’Quan Johnson, 26, stole the items from checked baggage, including a .40 caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol, the Department of Justice announced. When the allegations first emerged, the Austin Police Department said Johnson had traded some of the stolen guns for marijuana.

Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of theft from an interstate shipment and one count of possession of a stolen firearm. By pleading guilty, the Justice Department says Johnson admits that between Nov. 29, 2016 and Feb. 2, 2017, he stole seven handguns from passenger bags at the airport.

Police said the first complaint came when a traveler’s gun went missing after leaving ABIA. Officers got search warrants for Johnson’s home after months of watching employee card swipes and using airport surveillance video.

Austin police searched Johnson’s home on Parkfield Drive in north Austin in early February. Police say they interviewed Johnson and he confessed to stealing the weapons from airport baggage and was fired from his baggage handling job.

Johnson underwent and passed an airport background check and had no prior criminal history.

He remains on bond pending his sentencing, which has yet to be scheduled.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Transportation Security Administration and the Austin Police Department’s Aviation Division conducted the investigation into the thefts.

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