Knives found on man at YVRA

Police think it was innocent mistake

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A Peruvian man was arrested Tuesday after walking into Yampa Valley Regional Airport carrying three knives hidden inside a DVD/VCR player he intended to carry on board his flight.

Roque Cesar Contreras, 35, was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of carrying concealed weapons and was held in the Routt County Jail until he was turned over to state officials Wednesday and charged with violating federal law prohibiting boarding an aircraft with a weapon, said Dick Weatherby, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The federal charges were made early Wednesday in Denver, where Contreras, who doesn't speak English, will have a hearing before a federal magistrate judge next week, Weatherby said.

Contreras, who has a work visa and has worked as a ranch hand in Craig on and off for the past 13 years, was dropped off at YVRA Tuesday morning by his supervisor.

The knives were spotted after Contreras put his black canvas carry-on in the tray to be X-rayed. Seeing the X-ray image, agents from the Transportation Security Administration quickly called their supervisor, said Robert Saltzmann, TSA deputy federal security director at YVRA.

Contreras had disassembled a DVD/VCR player inside his bag and taped inside it a pocketknife with a 4-inch blade and two smaller knives used for gutting animals, along with several pieces of jewelry and trinkets, Saltzmann said.

"Our system worked flawlessly," said Saltzmann, who called the Hayden Police Department to apprehend the man. "It did give me a bit of an adrenaline rush, but once we saw the person, we realized he probably wasn't a threat."

Hayden Police Chief Jody Lenahan also said he thought the Peruvian man was harmless and that he simply did not know the law.

"I think he was trying to bring the knives and other things home as gifts for his family," Lenahan said. "He just didn't want them to get stolen while he was traveling."

His ranch supervisor in Craig, agreed with Lenahan and Saltzmann. The supervisor said Contreras has never given him any trouble in the 13 years he has worked with him.

"He seemed like a really nice guy," Lenahan said. "He only speaks Spanish, but he knows how to say 'I'm sorry.'"

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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