Passengers removed from plane are released without charges

(AP) -- Four people were removed from a Chicago-bound flight at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Tuesday morning after a passenger reported what she believed was suspicious behavior, but they were released hours later without charges, officials said.

A passenger on Spirit Airlines Flight 969 was on his phone, watching a media report that caused the passenger next to him "some concern," so she alerted a flight attendant, Maryland Transportation Authority Police spokesman 1st Sgt. Jonathan Green said.

The plane was taxiing to the runway when the flight crew decided to return to the gate and the captain asked police to remove three men and a woman from the plane, he said.

All passengers were removed from the plane for a time, Spirit Airlines spokesman Stephen Schuler said in a statement, but once the Transportation Security Administration cleared the plane and luggage, the flight departed for Chicago's O'Hare International Airport after 9 a.m., he said. It had been scheduled to leave at 6 a.m.

All four of the removed passengers were released without charges after a few hours, Green said. He described them as a husband, wife and relative traveling together and a third man who was sitting near them, Green said. He said he did not know whether they decided to continue their journey.

David Rocca told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he and fellow passengers were told that security officials would come on the plane and that they should stay seated. The 28-year-old Baltimore man said two men and a woman were taken off the flight first and that they took their carry-on bags off as well. He said officials returned to remove the fourth person, a man.

"They quietly stood up, removed their bags and followed the two officers off the plane," Rocca said.

Rocca said the early-morning flight was about half-full. He said he was among half a dozen passengers who also were taken off the flight because they had connecting flights in Chicago that they would miss.