Air traffic controller charged with having pipe bomb

by: DaShawn Brown, Mark Becker Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - An air traffic controller at Charlotte Douglas International Airport who has been charged with having a weapon of mass destruction made his first court appearance Monday.

Paul Dandan was charged after police said he received a homemade pipe bomb from his roommate, Derrick Fells.

Dandan did not answer Channel 9's questions about why he had the device.

Fells was also in court Monday.

"The truth will come out," Fells said on Monday.

The two Charlotte residents were charged with manufacturing and possessing a weapon of mass destruction.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers went to 315 Minitree Lane near Mount Holly Road after a 911 call about someone who had a homemade explosive device. 

Members of the CMPD bomb squad also arrived at the home and confirmed that they found a homemade pipe bomb. 

Police said Fells, 39, constructed the device and admitted that he had made the bomb in order to use it against a neighbor during their ongoing dispute.


(Fells)

Fells changed his mind and gave the pipe bomb away to Dandan, 30, who was a full-time employee of the Federal Aviation Administration working at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. 


(Dandan)

Dandan was also a volunteer with the Long Creek Volunteer Fire Department. Fire Department officials told Channel 9 that he has since been fired.

“The FAA employee only had access to the offsite air traffic control tower and had no access to the restricted areas of the terminal or ramp,” airport officials said in a news release. “He did not have access to any aircraft at the airport.”

Detectives on Friday obtained warrants for both men and they were arrested.

Dandan's neighbors said they noticed multiple officers at his house last week, but didn’t know why they were there.

“So I pull up in the driveway and more SWAT cars were coming up,” neighbor Joseph Little said. “I have a gas water heater, gas fireplace. That bomb going off could've set off a chain reaction.”

Dandan was charged with possession of a weapon of mass destruction, acquiring a weapon of mass destruction, and transporting a weapon of mass destruction.

“To know that it's an airport official or an airport employee, it just speaks to the need to be more mindful and watchful of the security of this country,” Little said.

Fells was charged with three counts of manufacturing a weapon of mass destruction and one count of possession of a weapon of mass destruction.

“The FAA has terminated the employee's access to the facility and is cooperating with law enforcement authorities,” FAA officials said in a news release.

Both men have bonded out of jail.

Dandan's attorneys, Ron Frey and David Lange, issued the following statement on Monday:

"There is no allegation of any wrongdoing with respect to Mr. Dandan’s position as
an air-traffic controller and no allegation that he intended or attempted to harm any
person or property. As an air-traffic controller and volunteer firefighter, he
committed himself to the service of others and the community. He cooperated with
the authorities during the investigation. As counsel for Mr. Dandan, we look forward
to addressing the matter in court."

Dandan's prior charge

Dandan's attorneys aren't saying what he intended to do with the bomb.

Court records show Dandan was charged two years ago with assaulting a woman he had known since college.

She said Dandan was working as an air traffic controller in Georgia, but that he transferred here in February of 2015 to be close to her.

She told police he forced his way into her apartment, held her against the wall and pointed a gun at himself and then at her.

She took out a restraining order against him and records show that case was deferred three months later on the condition that Dandan see a private therapist, and not have access to any weapons or firearms.

Dandan continued to work as an air traffic controller until his arrest Friday.

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