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Stolen sweater snarls San Diego airport, environs

SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- An apparent case of theft snarled flights at San Diego Airport Sunday and led police to shut nearby streets.

An American Airlines jet bound for Chicago had pulled away from the terminal and was preparing to take off from San Diego International Airport Sunday afternoon when a woman pulled a sweater from an overhead bin and what appeared to be a grenade fell from it and rolled down the aisle, to the amazement of passengers.

At least one passenger alerted a crew member, who informed the pilot, who called airport security.

A bomb squad and a bomb-sniffing dog went through the plane and discovered that the object was an FAA-approved dummy grenade used to test the vigilance of screeners at security checkpoints. It had been taken -- in a bag containing the sweater -- from a security checkpoint near the X-ray machine, said Marty Heires, a spokesman for American.

"The woman was passing by and liked it (the sweater) and grabbed it," he said. "It apparently caught her eye."

The airport was temporarily closed, nearby streets were evacuated, the flight was delayed for three hours as passengers were re-screened, and the woman was led away in handcuffs.

She could be charged with theft and interfering with the flight crew, said Sgt. John Forsythe of the San Diego Harbor Police. "We don't know how she got it," he said. "That's what we're investigating."

The MD-80 was carrying 98 passengers, two pilots and three flight attendants, Heires said. It had been scheduled to depart San Diego at 1:50 p.m. PST, or 4:50 p.m. EST.

All flights departing the terminal were also delayed.

"There wasn't any panic at all," said passenger Wayne Sombrick, who was en route to Hartford, Connecticut.


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