80 Year Old Texan Arrested At
Airport For Rifle Remark

By Paul Marks
Hartford Courant Staff Writer

Eighty-year-old Fred Hubbell, tired and cranky after facing a gantlet of searches at Bradley International Airport, made a sarcastic remark about a rifle that he quickly came to regret.
Suddenly he found himself in handcuffs - with a firsthand sense of what the Transportation Security Administration means by "zero tolerance."
It was a new experience for the retired engineer and World War II veteran. He got to stroll through the crowded concourse Thursday escorted by a state trooper while onlookers wondered if he was some kind of terrorist.
He had a mug shot taken. He was fingerprinted. He spent about 20 minutes in a locked holding cell, as his worried wife waited outside. He was read his Miranda rights and offered the chance to phone a lawyer, which he declined.
What Hubbell said, by his recollection, was innocent enough.
Near the end of the second full-scale pat-down he and his wife, Grayce, had undergone by Transportation Security Administration guards, just steps from boarding a 7:30 a.m. flight they had almost missed, he saw the screener poking into his wallet.
Having been a first lieutenant in the Army and owner of his own metal-plating business for 25 years, Hubbell said he is used to speaking his mind. Sometimes, he admitted, it has got him in hot water.
"I said, `What do you expect to find in there, a rifle?'" he said. When the trooper asked me, `Do you think that was an appropriate remark?' I said, `I do.'" That's when Hubbell was taken into custody by Trooper Wayne Foster.
Dana Cosgrove, head of the federal security force that moved into Bradley last week, sees it differently.
"What he said [regarding the wallet] was, `You better look at it real good; there may be a rifle in there.' And all that the people around him in the waiting room heard was the word `rifle.'"
Anxiety levels after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are high enough at airports, Cosgrove said, which is why cracks about guns, bombs or terrorism are cause for arrest. The airport's public address system issues regular reminders in both English and Spanish.
"I want to be sure that when people step on that plane they're 100 percent comfortable," Cosgrove said.
The exact words Hubbell said and how he said them are immaterial now. A Stratford native now living in Texas, he was on his way home after visiting a boyhood friend in Madison. The last thing he wants, he said, is a trip back to Connecticut to contest the charge.
Issued a citation for "creating a public disturbance," Hubbell said he will settle the matter by mailing a check to state Superior Court to cover the $78 fine plus court costs.
"I was a bad boy, and I know that," he said during a telephone interview Friday, "and I shouldn't have said what I said, especially under the circumstances that we're living under today."
But his misstep - which, of course, caused him and his wife to miss their Dallas-bound plane and got them home several hours later than expected - is an object lesson on what the Transportation Security Administration means by "zero tolerance." Hubbell actually got off easy: Most such arrests result in misdemeanor "breach of peace" charges, which require a court appearance.
State police Sgt. Paul Vance said the lesser charge was used for Hubbell because no threat was made, and "it wasn't a situation where a person became obnoxious or irate."
Hubbell had a similar impression of the way he was treated by the state police. Foster was firm but not accusatory, he said, and the two spent considerable time discussing the incident. "It was really quite a friendly affair," Hubbell said, "except for the fact that I have to pay 78 bucks."


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