FBI details FAA facility arsons, Naperville man's Facebook post

  • FBI agents were searching the Naperville residence and detached garage of 36-year-old Brian Howard, who is accused of setting fires and causing other damage to the FAA air traffic control center in Aurora.

    FBI agents were searching the Naperville residence and detached garage of 36-year-old Brian Howard, who is accused of setting fires and causing other damage to the FAA air traffic control center in Aurora. Justin Kmitch | Staff Photographer

  • Numerous law enforcement agencies are investigating a fire Friday morning at the FAA air traffic control center in Aurora. Police said they believe the fire was purposely set by a contract employee who is being treated at an Aurora hospital for self-inflicted injuries.

    Numerous law enforcement agencies are investigating a fire Friday morning at the FAA air traffic control center in Aurora. Police said they believe the fire was purposely set by a contract employee who is being treated at an Aurora hospital for self-inflicted injuries. Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • Authorities remove a dark-colored SUV that was covered with a blue tarp from the FAA air traffic control center in Aurora.

    Authorities remove a dark-colored SUV that was covered with a blue tarp from the FAA air traffic control center in Aurora. Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • Aurora police Chief Greg Thomas talks to the news media Friday in Aurora after a Naperville man caused serious damage to an FAA air traffic control center in the city.

    Aurora police Chief Greg Thomas talks to the news media Friday in Aurora after a Naperville man caused serious damage to an FAA air traffic control center in the city. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/26/2014 10:44 PM

A 36-year-old Naperville man has been charged with one count of destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities in connection with a fire and other damage Friday that forced the closure of the FAA's air traffic control facility in Aurora.

A federal source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Brian Howard, of the 1300 block of Ivy Lane, also cut all radar feeds into the facility and most communication lines. The extent of the damage is vast, the source said.

 

Howard worked for the FAA contractor that supplies and maintains communications systems at air traffic facilities, said Jessica Cigich, a spokeswoman for Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, the union that represents FAA technicians. He was recently told he was being transferred to Hawaii, the FBI said, after eight years at the Aurora facility.

Authorities said they found Howard sprawled in the basement of the center early Friday morning with multiple self-inflicted stab wounds. They said they found several knives at the scene but no other weapons or explosives.

Aurora police Chief Greg Thomas said authorities believe this was an isolated case with no links to terrorism. He said police believe Howard was acting alone.

Authorities believe Howard set three fires using rags and gasoline, according to the federal source.

Howard was being treated for his stab wounds and blood loss at an Aurora hospital. Authorities said he is expected to survive.

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In a complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court, the FBI said Howard recently had been told he was being transferred to Hawaii.

The FBI said he entered the control center at 5:06 a.m. Friday dragging a black hard-sided rolling suitcase.

Roughly 30 minutes after entering the building, a private message was posted on his Facebook account that read, in part: "April, Pop, love you guys and I am sorry. Leaving you with a big mess. Do your best to move on quickly from me please. Feel like I give a (expletive) for the first time in a long time again ... but not for too long (haha!). So I'm gonna smoke this blunt and move on, take care everyone."

The FBI said a family member saw the message and sent it to Naperville police, who forwarded it to Aurora police.

At 5:42 a.m., a control center employee called 911 to report a fire.

The first firefighter/paramedics on the scene found smoke in the basement of the building and blood on the basement floor. They followed the blood to an area where a floor panel had been pulled away exposing telecommunications cables and other wires. They also found a gas can next to the panel, towels that appeared to have been burned and the roller board case.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The paramedics told authorities they followed a trail of blood and saw a knife, a lighter and then another knife and more blood. They found a shirtless Howard lying beneath a table slicing his own throat with another knife, the FBI said. He also had cuts on his arms.

The paramedics pulled the knife from Howard's hand and took him to an Aurora hospital, according to the FBI.

Aurora police found Howard's SUV in the parking lot and searched it for possible explosives.

Naperville police also searched Howard's residence at the Arbor Apartment complex on the 1300 block of Ivy Lane to ensure there were no other victims or possible explosives. While inside, the FBI said, police found legal documents that had been placed in a "staged manner" to make them easier to find.

FBI agents and canine units were searching Howard's residence and detached garage Friday night.

The Chicago Center at 619 W. Indian Trail is an air traffic control facility that handles flights 40 miles outside O'Hare. Air traffic controllers at Aurora rely on radar and communications systems to determine the location of aircraft as well as weather that can affect flights.

Authorities said 15 to 30 employees were evacuated from the center because of the fire. One of them, a man about 50 years old, was treated for smoke inhalation at the scene.

When the center was evacuated, management of the region's airspace was transferred to other facilities, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said.

The FAA said in a statement Friday evening that it was managing the Aurora facility's traffic through centers in Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Minneapolis. The agency said it would continue working with those centers over the weekend to reduce disruptions.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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