ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A man arrested at Asheville Regional Airport as the president was departing on Air Force One Sunday is merely a "public-service-minded" ham-radio, weather and police buff who just wanted to see the president.
Joseph Sean McVey, 23, of Coshocton, Ohio, is being held on $100,000 bail after making his first appearance in court Monday morning. He was held overnight in the Buncombe County Jail on a misdemeanor charge of going armed to the terror of the public.
McVey’s next court appearance is June 10. The current charge against him carries a maximum penalty of 120 days. Additional federal charges are possible.
The arrest was merited to ensure McVey was not a threat, said Jeff Augram, the airport's public safety chief. Knowing McVey's interests as a radio buff, weather enthusiast and sheriff's volunteer helped explain many of the items found in his car, Augram said.
"In a post-9/11 culture, we have to take a pro-active posture," Augram said, referring to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Police say they spotted McVey in an airport car-rental parking lot Sunday just after Air Force One departed. He allegedly had a note in his car with formulas used for firing a rifle with a scope but no rifle. Authorities say he was carrying a side arm. McVey gave authorities an Ohio driver's license, but a computer check failed to show the number was valid, police said.
Law enforcement-style lights
His car was equipped with clear LED law enforcement-style strobe lights in the front and rear dash. The car also had a mounted digital camera in the front window, four large antennas on the trunk lid, and under the steering wheel was a working siren box.
Acquaintances from his hometown of Coshocton, Ohio, suggested the whole episode may just be a misunderstanding involving a sometimes overly enthusiastic young man.
McVey lives in a simple, one-story white house that sits off a narrow, paved township road winding through a hilly, wooded area just south of Coshocton. A man answering the door Monday said he had no comment.
McVey's mother, Jeri Senor, lives in Asheville and said Monday the family did not want to talk.
"We're doing fine but we don't want to comment right now," she said.
McVey wore a white jail jumpsuit, appeared calm and spoke in a steady voice for a court hearing via video conference Monday. District Judge Patricia Young said told him an attorney had agreed to represent him.
"I'd like to take advantage of the gentleman that you were notifying me about," he responded.
Official concern is very low over McVey.
Coshocton County Sheriff Timothy Rogers said Monday he had no knowledge of McVey or his family and that he was not investigating McVey.
Security was heightened at the airport because President Barack Obama was leaving after spending the weekend vacationing in Asheville. He was headed to a memorial service for 29 West Virginia coal miners killed in an explosion .
Interest in law enforcement
Interest in law enforcement
He listed hobbies such as shooting, fishing, hunting, piano, trumpet and voice.
McVey graduated from West Liberty University in West Virginia and, according to his MySpace profile, he majored in music technology, the local Asheville Citizen-Times newspaper reported.
The newspaper surveyed a number of different social networking sites and blogs of which McVey is a participant, and reported that he marked as favorite on his YouTube account a video that allegedly shows U.S. soldiers accidentally killing civilians in Iraq.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that none of the websites examined by the paper include any mention of the president.
NBC's Pete Williams and The Associated Press contributed to this report.