Lubbock man released after he causes shutdown of Miami airport - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

UPDATED: Lubbock man released after he causes shutdown of Miami airport

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Thomas Butler in the Lubbock federal building, 2003 Thomas Butler in the Lubbock federal building, 2003

By James Clark | email  

By Ann Wyatt Little | email

MIAMI, FL (KCBD) – A Lubbock man was the cause of a scare at the Miami airport Thursday night.  Officials say a suspicious item carried by a 70-year old man set off an alarm at a security check point. 

KCBD NewsChannel 11 learned from the NBC television affiliate in Miami that he is former Texas Tech HSC professor and researcher Thomas Butler. Butler was released and will not face criminal charges for the events that prompted the evacuation.

An official told the Associated Press on Friday that no dangerous material was found on Butler after he was detained Thursday night. He was released Friday.

Initially authorities believed a metal canister in Butler's luggage may have been a pipe bomb but a government official says the canister turned out to be a legitimate science experiment.

 Federal agents and a hazmat team were called in, and a bomb squad removed the suspicious item from Butler's checked bag while he was going through customs.

The airport was business as usual by 3:30 Friday morning, after a thorough search - including bomb sniffing dogs.  Butler's history may help explain some of the response at the Miami airport Thursday.

Back in 2003, Butler made national news when he reported 30 vials containing samples of the bubonic plague missing, which sparked a bio-hazard scare.  Butler was arrested on 69 counts including smuggling, fraud and lying to federal agents.

Butler, who is credited with saving thousands of lives worldwide with his expertise on plague, spent nearly two years behind bars on 47 convictions and lost his job at Texas Tech HSC.  A Lubbock jury acquitted him of illegally exporting the plague samples.  

Nearly 200 people were evacuated. Four out of the six terminals at MIA were evacuated. Officials say it was a precautionary measure.

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