Daniel Casillo Faces Trespassing Charge; PA Has Many Unanswered Questions

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A $100 million security system at John F. Kennedy Airport was tested and failed.

Now, authorities are trying to figure out how a man was able to approach the runway in the dark of the night without ever being noticed.

Hundreds and hundreds of hockey-puck sized sensors detect movement on the fence around JFK Airport, which is constantly monitored by dozens and dozens of security cameras. The system, made by defense contractor Raytheon Co., is meant to be a safeguard against terrorists.

1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports

It cost millions and millions of dollars, but the detection system failed to detect Daniel Casillo on Friday night when he climbed the fence and entered the airport from the waters of Jamaica Bay.

“I think it’s really uncharacteristic of airport security,” traveler Lauren Mayernik told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey on Monday night.

Investigators believe Casillo, a 31-year-old from Queens, was riding a Sea-Doo personal water craft with a group of friends. As they raced around bay near JFK, Casillo’s machine died and he was left behind.

Desperate for help, he swam towards the lights of JFK, climbed right over the 8-foot-high security fence and crossed two active runways, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.

“I think he panicked, he swam for shore and the first shore he got to was JFK,” said Marie Rizzo of Howard Beach.

The Perimeter Intrusion Detection System apparently did not alert and Casillo, reportedly soaking wet and wearing a bright yellow life vest, wasn’t spotted until he got all the way to Terminal 3.

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reports

Casillo has been charged with criminal trespass, according to a complaint. His cousin said he had no choice but to swim to shore and look for help.

“I think it’s pretty ridiculous if you ask me,” Angelo Casillo told CBS 2’s Dick Brennan. “I have no words for it.”

Attorney John Ragano represents Daniel Casillo and said  “He won’t have any comment until he has his day in court and he’s really not in good shape in terms of his anxiety at this point.”

The Port Authority said it is looking into the matter, adding that it has increased patrols on the ground and in the water .

“We have called for an expedited review of the incident and a complete investigation to determine how Raytheon’s perimeter intrusion detection system — which exceeds federal requirements — could be improved,” the agency said in a statement. “Our goal is to keep the region’s airports safe and secure at all times.”

The Port Authority Police union told CBS 2’s Hennessey the security breach proves what they’ve been saying for years.

“The technology’s not working,” said the PBA’s Paul Nunziato. “The system doesn’t work.  It might work on some sections but it obviously din’t work on this section.”

But security experts like Isaac Yeffet said they aren’t interested in the finger pointing.

”Why we allow ourself to spend millions of dollars and not to have security?” he said. “The bottom line – did we fail? yes or no?”

The security breach also prompted outrage from Sen. Chuck Schumer.

“We’ve been warning about this real danger for years,” Schumer said. “Maybe this is a blessing in disguise that will finally get the Port Authority to do a top-to-bottom investigation of their perimeter security and fix the problems immediately.”

Meanwhile, many who live near JFK said they were concerned about what happened.

“They need to pay more attention, especially if they are spending $100 million,” Queens resident Christopher Bermudez said.

“It makes me feel unsafe to be quite honest with you,” added Eddie Garcia.

Casillo has a court date set for October.

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