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Romania: Immigrant Carrying Weapons Arrested At Tampa Airport

Washington, 4 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- A Romanian immigrant studying to be a priest was arrested Saturday at Tampa International Airport in Florida for carrying explosives and weapons in his carry-on luggage as he attempted to board a flight.

Roman Regman, 21, was returning to St. Tikhons Seminary in Pennsylvania after a summer visit with his mother, who lives in Brooksville, Florida, about 80 kilometers north of Tampa. He was stopped at an airport security checkpoint. According to police, Regman placed two pieces of luggage on the conveyor belt to be checked by an X-ray machine.

Airport authorities say both bags were too tightly packed to be scanned properly. When Regman was told his bags would have to be searched by hand, he volunteered information that he had a gun inside.

Airport security inspected the luggage and found an unloaded 9 millimeter gun, along with approximately 180 rounds of ammunition, a number of military-style knives, two hand grenades, five hand-made explosive devices, a black ski mask and gloves, and a variety of bomb-making materials.

Police say Regman, a third-year seminary student, offered no resistance and made no statement when he was arrested on numerous weapons charges and multiple counts of possessing explosive devices. He did not have a license for the gun.

Authorities say that Regman immigrated from Romania to the United States five years ago with his mother. He had a Florida drivers license and a resident alien card, which permits him to legally work and study in the United States.

Teachers and administrators at St. Tikhons Seminary expressed shock and disbelief at Regman's arrest.

Archbishop Herman Swaiko, the spiritual leader of the Eastern Diocese of Pennsylvania of the Orthodox Church in America, told RFE/RL that there was absolutely nothing in Regman's nature that would lend itself to such an incident.

"This is exactly why everyone here is so shocked and saddened," he said. "We just can't believe this is the same person who has been with us for two years. We simply can't understand why he did what he did and why he took such things with him on the plane. Why did he purchase them in the first place? Naturally, you can never have arms at the seminary -- that is forbidden. So what was his intention and why did he do it -- I have no idea."

The Orthodox Church of America is a part of the Russian Orthodox Church and operates three seminaries in the United States.

The archbishop said that if Regman had graduated he would have been eligible to be a priest, a teacher or any kind of worker in the church. But to have become a priest, he would have had to be ordained first, a step not performed by the seminary.

The events of what exactly happened at the airport are being disputed by Regman's mother, Cornelia.

According to a "New York Times" report, Cornelia, who was at the airport with her son at the time of the arrest, accused authorities of lying and gave a different account of what transpired at the airport.

She said her son's luggage passed through the X-ray machine without any problems. But her son told her afterward that it was his duty to inform authorities of what he had inside the bags.

She added that she believed her son was simply confused about the rules for transporting a gun. He imagined the flight attendants would take any dangerous items from him for safekeeping once he had boarded.

She did not, however, have any explanation for why her son had a gun, hand grenades, ammunition and bomb-making materials.

Calls to her home in Florida were not returned, but Archbishop Swaiko told RFE/RL that he had been in contact with her and she was highly distressed by the events.

Regman is being held without bond in the Hillsborough County Jail in Tampa, Florida.

According to Tampa Airport Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Federal Aviation Administration and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are currently cooperating in the investigation.