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Pensacola sailor arrested after trying to steal plane

Mar. 27, 2014 - 02:16PM   |  
Mahiri Hanif, 20, of Atlanta.
Mahiri Hanif, 20, of Atlanta. (Escambia County Jail)
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PENSACOLA, FLA. — A Georgia man told police he wanted to fly home to see his mother.

But the trainee at Pensacola Naval Air Station decided to scale a barbed-wire fence at Pensacola International Airport and take a UPS cargo plane for his journey, Pensacola police said. Two officers found him Tuesday inside the cockpit of the plane with his hand on the controls.

Seaman Recruit Mahiri Hanif, 20, was a student at the base’s Naval Air Technical Training Center, a base spokesman said Thursday. He had been there for almost a year since graduating from boot camp in April at Great Lakes Naval Training Center north of Chicago.

The incident began about 1:15 p.m. CT Tuesday when the Atlanta man tried to enter the airport concourse through an exit lane, saying he needed to get to Gate 2, according to an arrest report. A police officer stopped him and told him he needed to go through the airport’s Transportation Security Administration checkpoint.

Hanif told the officer he did not have a plane ticket nor any money to buy one, according to the report.

Hanif also said he recently had been dishonorably discharged from the military. Hanif, whose rank is the Navy’s lowest, evidently had unspecified problems at the Navy school where he was studying to be an avionics electronics technician.

The officer said he directed Hanif to the airport’s United Service Organizations lounge and advised him to get a prepaid phone card to call his family. About 20 minutes later, Hanif was spotted climbing over a fence and running up portable steps leading to the unoccupied cargo plane.

He entered the aircraft through a door on its left side, police said.

Two officers found him sitting in the pilot seat. They took him into custody without incident.

Hanif was charged with burglary of an unoccupied conveyance and battery of an officer. He is being held at the Escambia County Jail on $7,500 bond, and the Department of Defense has placed a hold on him that will keep him in jail for an undetermined amount of time.

At the time of his arrest, he was “on hold awaiting administrative separation from the Navy,” according to the base spokesman, Ed Barker.

Hanif’s next court appearance is scheduled for April 16, according to online records.

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