Watts violated airport security measures

Sunday, October 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts violated security measures outside Will Rogers World Airport last month by leaving his car unattended in a loading zone, according to published reports.

The Norman representative was so angry that he shoved the ticket under an Oklahoma City police officer's badge, two of Watts' aides told The Oklahoman for a copyright story published Sunday.

Watts left his car unattended in a loading zone about 10 a.m. Sept. 28, a violation of new security measures implemented after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

During the conflict with the police officer, Watts used the word ``bomb'' in protesting the ticket, said Pam Pryor, Watts' chief of staff.

``He said something like, 'Well, what if I'd had a bomb?''' Pryor said.

In a statement Saturday, Watts said he has apologized and that he has ``the highest regard for law enforcement and appreciates the added burden they are under at this time.''

A source who asked not to be named told the Tulsa World the congressman did not believe his apology was accepted. Watts was asked by the police officer to wait and read a letter that has been sent to Watts' Washington office. The letter may request that any apology be in writing, the source said.

Police sources said Watts yelled at the officer who wrote the ticket, then thrust it between his badge and chin and told him to ``take care of it.''

Pryor and Greg McCarthy, Watts' press secretary, said Watts pulled into the parking spot outside the second-level airport terminal and helped his wife, Frankie, carry her bags through a revolving door.

Watts said he left the car ``for seconds'' and was surprised to find police Sgt. Edward Stupka leaving a $15 parking ticket on his car. Watts stuffed the ticket under Stupka's badge, Pryor said, and Stupka threw the ticket onto the back seat of Watts' car.

Watts then drove away.

Frankie Watts mailed payment for the ticket on Thursday, Pryor said.

Watts has attempted to apologize to Stupka on the telephone this week.

``He has made repeated attempts in the last 24 hours to make a personal apology to ... Stupka,'' McCarthy said. ``He has tried several times ... but the officer is not receptive.''

McCarthy said Watts left a message on Stupka's voice mail expressing his appreciation of the job all law enforcement officers have been doing since Sept. 11.

Last year, a man was detained at the airport for joking about having a bomb in his suitcase.

Watts supports an aviation security bill scheduled for a vote this week.