Atlanta airport security breach: 911 call, video of arrest released

After a suspect took a wild ride around a supposedly secured area of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, many questions regarding safety and security have been raised.

"The individual was able to scale on the fences. He was seen by high employees of Delta and Southwest. Per our protocol, they are to follow the individual," said Michael Smith, deputy airport manager.

Authorities say after hopping the razor wire fence, Terence Stewart hopped into a Delta vehicle and drove it around the airport, boarded a Southwest plane, came face to face with an employee in the cockpit of that plane, deplaned and then found another vehicle to drive. He was ultimately stopped by Atlanta police and charged with taking those two Delta trucks on Jan. 6.

Police say the suspect scaled a fence with razor wire to breach security at Hartsfield-Jackson. (FOX 5 Atlanta)


FOX 5 obtained the audio of the 911 call made during the incident.

"He went inside the aircraft," a caller told the dispatcher.

"You said he's not an employee?" the dispatcher asked.

"No," the caller said. "He does not have a badge.

The caller told the dispatcher that the suspect was headed back toward the taxiway, where planes go before and after they take off.

Man arrested after police say he jumped the fence in a hyper-secured area of Hartsfield-Jackson, stole two airport vehicles and boarded a plane. (Supplied)

Keith Martin, a former College Park solicitor told FOX 5 that Stewart made the worst mistake of all when he crossed what staff call the "zipper line". It is a border of solid and dashed yellow lines that marks where the movement and nonmovement areas of the runway are. Airport sources told FOX 5 that within that border, not even police can go without specific authorization from the tower.

"And this man had the run of the other side of the zipper line," said Martin.

This is a "zipper line," the border officials told FOX 5 no one can go beyond without direct orders from the tower. (FOX 5 Atlanta)

"That zipper line is absolutely sacrosanct. Do not cross the zipper line unless you call the tower," Martin said firmly. "This incident could have gotten really out of hand seriously, very quickly."

In 2018, a Hartsfield-Jackson executive gave media a tour and discussed potential security improvements and limitations. It's clear some of those limitations remain today.

Related: How many Atlanta airport cancellations, delays are there following FAA system outage?

When asked if the fence line that Stewart climbed over was monitored by camera, a spokesperson for the airport said only "some of it" was.

Airport officials are still working to understand how Stewart was able to go over the fence.