A 49ers team already entangled in several police blotter items added another embarrassing incident to the list Sunday when troubled linebacker Aldon Smith was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport for allegedly saying he had a bomb.
According to witnesses, some of whom videotaped Smith being taken into custody, tension began at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter where Smith, 24, got into an argument with a ticket agent. When he went through security, airport police said, Smith said he had a bomb.
“The suspect then became belligerent and uncooperative with the process and with the TSA agent, making a comment indicating that he was in possession of a bomb before proceeding towards the gate area,” LAX police spokeswoman Sgt. Karla Ortiz said in a statement. “Los Angeles Airport Police made contact with him at the gate, and he was positively identified as the person in question. Once again, the male subject became uncooperative, and he was detained and taken into custody.”
Smith is charged with making a false report of a bomb threat, punishable by up to a year in jail.
According to Ortiz, it appeared Smith had been drinking earlier in the day. Police, however, did not check Smith’s blood-alcohol content, Ortiz told The Bee, because “it was not an issue that would affect the detention or the arrest.”
Still, whether Smith had been drinking likely will be a major question for the 49ers and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office. Smith is facing a DUI charge stemming from an incident in September. He had a hearing on Friday, and his next court date is April 29.
The 49ers issued a statement from general manager Trent Baalke: “We are disappointed to learn of the incident today involving Aldon Smith. As this is a pending legal matter and we are still gathering the pertinent facts, we will have no further comment.”
Smith has been arrested twice since 2012 on suspicion of DUI and faces weapons charges relating to a house party that got out of control in 2012. Smith was stabbed at that party. In addition, he was involved in a rollover car crash near his home in San Jose in 2012.
The most recent DUI arrest occurred in September when Smith was found passed out at the wheel of his pickup truck, which had run off the road and into a residential front yard in San Jose. Following that incident, Smith checked himself into a rehabilitation program and missed six weeks of the season.
Asked last month how Smith was doing, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said: “Thought he did a good job in all of those regards, as a player, as a teammate, decisions he was making. Very encouraged.”
Team owner Jed York last month said the team was doing everything possible to help Smith, who set the franchise season sack record in 2012.
“You can (only) do so much,” he said. “Somebody has to work for themselves if they’re going to get through these issues. We want to be very supportive of Aldon and let him know that if he needs anything, we’re here for him. We want to make sure that he continues to work through this.”
Sunday’s incident, however, raises the possibility that Smith will be suspended by the 49ers or NFL, and it calls into question his future with the team. Smith is entering the final year of his contract. The 49ers could exercise a so-called fifth-year option for Smith but would have to decide by May 3.
If they exercise the option, Smith will earn nearly $10 million for the 2015 season. The contract would become fully guaranteed on the first day of the 2015 league year if he’s still on the roster. The 49ers went 5-0 in the five games Smith missed last season, although four of the opponents finished with losing records.
Smith’s incident at the airport is the latest embarrassing issue involving a 49er. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and wide receiver Quinton Patton are part of an investigation of a “suspicious incident” involving an unnamed, 25-year-old woman in Miami. Kaepernick has maintained his innocence.
Cornerback Chris Culliver on Friday was arraigned on two counts of misdemeanor hit-and-run and one count of felony possession of metal knuckles after knocking over a bicyclist with his car last month. Culliver pleaded not guilty. The month before that, center Daniel Kilgore was arrested on a charge of public intoxication in Tennessee.
Two other 49ers have been arrested on suspicion of DUI since 2012, and linebacker Ahmad Brooks was investigated after hitting a teammate in the head with a beer bottle last summer, though no charges were filed.