A pistol-toting 76-year-old man told police he "forgot" he was armed when he was arrested in a Detroit airport with a loaded .38 caliber pistol over the weekend, showing even elderly people need to be screened, an airport official said today.
The man, who was not identified, told police that he often wears the pistol in an ankle holster for personal protection and it slipped his mind that he was still wearing it when he tried to get through a security checkpoint at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County International Airport Saturday, airport police spokesperson Mike Conway told ABC News.
The gun was spotted by the Transportation Security Administration's high-tech and controversial advanced imaging scanners using an automated target recognition system, the TSA said in a statement. The automated target recognition system, installed on the imaging systems in the U.S. starting this summer, is designed to identify threats on the human body and signal screeners to their location on an outline of the human body.
The man was arrested and later released after Conway said a background check came back clean. He had a permit to carry the weapon, but could still face several local, state or federal charges for allegedly attempting to bring a loaded weapon into restricted areas.
The arrest comes days after the TSA faced harsh criticism for allegedly strip searching three elderly women in separate incidents at JFK airport in New York. Law enforcement officials confirmed the grandmothers' stories to ABC News, but the TSA said in a blog post Sunday that the "TSA does not, and has never, conducted strip searches and no strip searches occurred in any of these incidents."
The new arrest, Conway said, showed that elderly people, too, must be screened.
"Why are you patting down old people? Why didn't you catch this gun? Which way do you win?" he said. "Here's an example of an elderly person... [where] if the TSA hadn't caught the gun, they would've been criticized for not catching it… Everybody did their jobs really well."
The TSA said as many as 1,100 firearms have been discovered at airport checkpoints this year alone.
ABC News' Richard Esposito and Alicia Tejada contributed to this report.