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Published: Monday, 4/26/2010

Ohio man arrested as Obama leaves N.C. faces hearing

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — An armed man who was spotted at a North Carolina airport parking lot just after Air Force One departed and said he wanted to see the president was to appear before a judge Monday.

Authorities arrested Joseph Sean McVey, 23, of Coshocton, Ohio, on Sunday afternoon at the Asheville Regional Airport and charged him with going armed in terror of the public, a misdemeanor.

A first appearance in court was scheduled for Monday, said Sgt. John Lutz of the Buncombe County jail, where McVey was being held on $100,000 bond.

McVey told an officer in the airport parking lot he wanted to see the president and he had a car equipped with police gear, including a siren and flashing lights, though he did not work in law enforcement, authorities said.

Security was heightened at the airport Sunday because President Barack Obama was leaving after spending the weekend vacationing in Asheville.

At about 2 p.m., airport police saw McVey get out of a maroon car with Ohio plates and that he had a sidearm, airport police Capt. Kevan Smith said. Both airport police and the Secret Service questioned him and he was taken into custody. The suspect was nowhere near the president's plane, which had just departed, and was in a rental car return lot that is open to the public, Smith said.

His car was equipped with clear LED law enforcement-style strobe lights in the front and rear dash, Smith said. The car also had a mounted digital camera in the front window, four large antennas on the trunk lid, and under the steering wheel was a working siren box.

When McVey got out of the car, he was listening to a handheld scanner and radio that had a remote earpiece, Smith said. Police said he was monitoring local agencies and had formulas for rifle scopes on a note in his cup holder.

Authorities did not say if McVey had a rifle or scope with him.

A rifle scope formula is a set of calculations that helps a shooter adjust for distance from a target. The formulas, which estimate how much a bullet drops after it is fired, are generally in the information packet that comes with a scope purchased for hunting or recreation, said Greg A. Danas, a firearms expert based in Massachusetts.

McVey gave authorities an Ohio driver's license, but a computer check failed to show the number was valid, police said. His hometown of Coshocton is about halfway between Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio.

When Officer Kaleb Rice asked him what he was doing, McVey told him he heard the president was in town and wanted to see him.

Rice removed the firearm and took McVey into custody.

The investigation into what McVey was doing with a gun, with formulas for rifle scopes and why his car was equipped with police gear was continuing, Smith said. The Secret Service had no comment on the arrest Sunday, deferring to airport police.

In Ohio, Randy Fisher, president of the Coshocton County Amateur Radio Association, said McVey was a ham radio enthusiast who had come several times to the group's monthly meetings over the last year or two. Fisher said he was shocked to hear of the arrest and said he last talked with McVey about a week ago via radio and always found him friendly and interesting to talk to.

“I was impressed that he was a public-service-minded type of individual. He really enjoyed using his ham radio for emergency services and that sort of thing,” Fisher said.

McVey was involved in a local organization that assists the sheriff's department when it needs help controlling traffic, which may explain why he had the police gear, Fisher said.

A message seeking comment was left Monday for Coshocton County Sheriff Tim Rogers.



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