Gregory Thomas Salyer, Discharged Marine, Faces 8 Years for Drugs, Artillery in JWA Bags

See Update No. 3 on Page 2 with the charges and possible punishment for Gregory Thomas Salyer. Update No. 2 has the Marines identifying him as a recently discharged corporal and gunner. Update No. 1 has officials describing the allegedly stolen military artillery devices the sheriff's department says were in his luggage.

ORIGINAL POST, AUG. 27, 4:20 P.M.: A bag scanned at John Wayne Airport this afternoon raised fears there might be explosives inside, prompting evacuations, a grounded plane and delayed flights as authorities sorted things out.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department, whose bomb squad responded to the scene, announced the item was not a threat and normal airport operations resumed around 3:30 p.m.

The drama began around 2 p.m. near Gate 21, where a Frontier Airlines plane bound for Denver was grounded after TSA agents became suspicious about the bag in the Terminal C baggage area, according to Orange County sheriff's Lt. Jeff Hallock, the agency's spokesman.

There has been some chatter of a grenade being what TSA agents thought they had discovered in the bag, but Hallock denied that.

A search of the plane and all 130 of its passengers and crew on Flight 264 turned up nothing else unusual, but during the operations the area inside and outside the terminal near Gate 21 was evacuated. The Terminal C baggage area was also closed. Bags and passengers were diverted to other areas of JWA.

The sheriff's department tweeted this afternoon that the passenger and bag are in custody and the airport has been deemed safe. It's unclear if any arrests were made.

The incident delayed some Southwest Airlines flights, and anyone bound for the airport for other travel today is encouraged to contact their carriers to make sure those flights are not delayed, according to an airport spokesperson.

UPDATE NO. 1, AUG. 27, 6:18 P.M.: The checked luggage that caused the ruckus at John Wayne Airport this afternoon contained three military artillery fuses and a less-lethal grenade sting ball, according to Orange County sheriff's Lt. Jeff Hallock.

The unidentified 27- 23-year-old passenger who carried the bag was arrested on suspicion of possessing a weapon in an area of the airport where it is not allowed.

Grenade sting balls project small rubber pellets when detonated, but none of the four devices in the bag posed a threat of exploding, Hallock reportedly told City News Service.

Military officials will take possession of the devices, according to Hallock.

Former Cpl. Gregory Thomas Salyer was a field artillery cannoneer with Battery G, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment.
Former Cpl. Gregory Thomas Salyer was a field artillery cannoneer with Battery G, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment.
Courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps

UPDATE NO. 2, AUG. 28, 1:10 P.M.: The sheriff's department has identified the man suspected of checking in baggage with stolen artillery fuses and a sting-ball grenade at John Wayne Airport as Gregory Thomas Salyer, 23, of Lexington, Kentucky.*

The U.S. Marines Corps (USMC) has identified the same person as recently being discharged as a corporal field artillery cannoneer with Battery G, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment.

Salyer was taken into custody and booked into county jail on suspicion of placing explosives in a checked bag, possessing prohibited weapons in an airport, possession of controlled substances and possession of stolen property, according to sheriff's Lt. Jeff Hallock, who added a small knife and about 300 steroid and Adderall pills were allegedly found in the suspect's carry-on bag that made it to the plane. Salyer's bail was set at $500,000.

The fuses and grenade are now back in the hands of the military, which confirms they were allegedly stolen.

Salyer was featured in May 9 USMC article about his life plans after leaving the corps.

Salyer mentioned nothing in that article about jail being in his plans.

Meanwhile, City News Service, citing a military publication, is reporting the following: the Kentucky native, who was stationed last in Twentynine Palms, joined the Marines when he was 19 and did stints in Guam, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Cambodia and Kuwait.

Salyer planned to continue his education with a major in business or criminal justice and then pursue a career in law enforcement. The FBI, Secret Service or the U.S. Marshals Service were among the agencies he was looking at.

*Age corrected in Update No. 1, where sheriff's department had mistakenly given the man's age as 27.

UPDATE NO. 3, AUG. 29, 10:15 A.M.: Gregory Thomas Salyer is charged with one felony count of placing a destructive device in a checked baggage, two felony counts of possession of a controlled substance, one felony count of receiving stolen property, and one misdemeanor count of carrying a switch-blade knife on his person, according to an Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) statement that indicates a conviction could lead to eight years in state prison.

Here's what the OCDA says was in the large green military duffel bag Salyer checked in:

  • A non-lethal sting ball grenade;
  • two military electric artillery time fuses (used on military artillery rounds);
  • one military fuse assembly;
  • a butterfly knife.

He is what he allegedly had in his carry-on bag:

  • More than 300 steroid pills;
  • More than 10 Adderall pills.

After being alerted by the TSA and sheriff's department, a Marine Corps chief warrant officer removed the grenade and fuses from the airport for disposal, according to the OCDA.

Still held on $500,000 bail, Salyer is expected to be arraigned in Santa Ana some time today.

Email: Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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