KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man who walked into a downtown Kansas City federal building Friday and set off a bomb scare by saying something about being on the government's terrorist watch list said it was all a misunderstanding and he is "not in trouble."
"In fact the FBI treated me very well and they even took me home to make sure I am safe," Wahed Moharam, of Grain Valley, told The Associated Press. "Whoever said, 'I have a bomb and this,' is untrue. I never said, 'I have a bomb' or anything whatsoever in that manner. Everything was taken and run away to make a story."
Officers closed off several blocks of traffic near the Richard Bolling Federal Building following the incident, and sent a bomb-sniffing dog and robot to search the man's car. The more than four-hour search turned up nothing threatening, according to the FBI.
Law enforcement didn't identify the man, but Moharam confirmed it was him and that his car was searched.
Moharam wouldn't repeat what he said inside the building, and he declined to answer many of the AP's questions about what police found. But he insisted he wasn't trying to make trouble, saying he simply hopes to become an American citizen and support his children and grandchildren.
A federal law enforcement source told The Associated Press the man entered the federal building and said something about being on the watch list, but his exact words were not clear. The source said no explosives were found on the man or in his car, but police did find a gun in the vehicle. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.
FBI special agent Michael Kaste said later in a statement that the man walked into the building "to clarify whether he was under investigation by a federal agency." FBI officials are prohibited from discussing whether someone is on a national security watch list.
Kaste said the large-scale response was based on the "initial limited information" police had from witnesses, adding: "The primary concern was for the public's safety, which made the actions today necessary."
The searched car was parked near the Fletcher Daniels State Office building and the towering Bolling building, which houses numerous government agencies including the Social Security Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Donna Kerr, a benefits analyzer for SSA, said workers had "absolutely no information from official sources, other than to stay away from the windows."
"It was kind of tense, but we weren't scared," added Jennifer Smith, a benefit authorizer for the SSA on the building's 16th floor.
Before Friday's incident, Moharam may have already been familiar to Kansas City residents: The small business owner was the ardent fan known as "Helmet Man" for the gear he wore to Kansas City Chiefs football games. The Chiefs revoked his tickets out of safety concerns in 2003 after the team learned he had been in the federal witness protection program for testifying for government prosecutors in the first World Trade Center bombing.
Moharam had been out of the witness protection program for several years before an ex-wife disclosed that fact on a website in 2001. The Chiefs confirmed it with federal authorities and learned his testimony had been central to the case, meaning there were people who may still want to harm him.
Chiefs officials told The Kansas City Star in 2003 that they felt his presence — in full "Helmet Man" regalia — could make him an easy target and endanger fans, so they offered to rotate his season tickets to different spots and asked him to stop dressing up. When he refused, they said, they had no choice but to revoke his tickets.