Port Authority police have arrested the man they believe was the intruder who caused a security breach that shut down Continental Airlines' Terminal C at Newark airport Sunday night, NBCNewYork has learned.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says 28-year-old Haisong Jiang, of Piscataway, was taken into custody at 7:30 p.m. Friday at his home.
Jiang will be charged with defiant trespass, Port Authority officials said. That charge is lesser than a criminal trespassing charge. It constitutes only a violation with a fine of up to $500, says Port Authority spokesman Ron Marisco. Law-enforcement officials tell NBCNewYork Jiang will likely face a $100 fine with no jail time. The circumstances aren't clear, but he may be able to just mail the ticket in with the fine without showing up in court.
Jiang has not commented publicly since he was taken into custody. Speaking outside Jiang's home on Saturday, Ning Huang said he's known the Piscataway resident for several years. Huang says Jiang's "a very good person" who did not realize the ramifications of his actions last Sunday.
Jiang is from China, studying to be a professor in biotechnology. He and has been in the U.S. for six years, his roommate told NBCNewYork.
The woman seen on the tape is Jiang's girlfriend, according to the roommate.
"He just got a girlfriend... I think his first formal girlfriend.... true love makes you do some stupid things," the roommate who declined to give his name, told NBCNewYork.
Friends describe Jiang as a romantic who just wanted to see his girlfriend off properly. They also say Haisong Jiang is an avid soccer player who loves to cook.
Mayor of Piscataway Brian Wahler, told NBCNewYork that he lives only a few houses from Jiang's residence, and that the house was "a household of graduate students from Rutgers University who pretty much keep to themselves."
Claire Busby, a neighbor told NBCNewYork she saw people and coming but that the group of students mostly kept to themselves.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who was instrumental in getting the surveillance video of the incident released, praised the arrest.
“I applaud the Port Authority Police Department for working diligently to make this arrest,” Sen. Lautenberg said in a statement. “With this arrest, law enforcement will be able to take a closer look into how and why this incident occurred and make sure that it never happens again.”
"He (Jiang) did a stupid thing, but it was ... premeditated; that he looked for a chance to break into the system and though ... it was on a relatively benign mission, the fact of the matter is that what he did was a terrible injustice to the ... 16 thousand people who were inconvenienced," Sen. Lautenberg said at a late night news conference.
Earlier in the week, authorities enlisted the public's help in nabbing the interloper.
The surveillance video showing the man behind the airport breach last weekend was released by Lautenberg on Thursday.
It showed a man in a tan jacket waiting at the exit-way where passengers from arriving planes leave the terminal.
The man seems to wait impatiently -- then, when the security guard minding the exit walks away -- for over half-a-minute -- the man meets up with an exiting woman and goes back into the terminal. They seem to be smiling and happy, with no ulterior motives. Perhaps they wanted just one last goodbye kiss.
But the security breach was certainly serious.
“The release of this video will give law enforcement another tool to help find the person who breached the security gate at Newark Liberty Airport,” said Lautenberg. “I encourage this individual or anyone with knowledge of his identity to immediately contact law enforcement.
Minute by minute, the six-minute video (above) was broken down as follows: 1:01: TSA officer asks unidentified man to move away from secure area. 4:54: TSA officer leaves his post. 5:31: unidentified man enters secure area.
The breach sent the airport into lockdown mode for more than six hours last Sunday, stranding thousands of passengers.
“It is unacceptable that the Port Authority took so long to produce this tape, but now that it is public we have a better chance of getting to the bottom of this major security incident," said Lautenberg.
The TSA called the video a "hard lesson."
"The surveillance video from Newark Liberty Airport clearly shows that a TSA Officer's actions led to the Sunday incident. We will use this hard lesson to reinforce the sharp focus and tight discipline at all our stations across the country and ensure we maintain the public trust," an agency spokeswoman said in a statement.
Officials had asked ask that anyone with knowledge as to the identity of the man in the video contact Port Authority investigators.
The guard is on administrative leave and facing possible disciplinary action.