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UPDATE: Phillips man barricades himself inside plane at Grand Island airport

UPDATE: Phillips man barricades himself inside plane at Grand Island airport

Tyler Caudill allegedly caused lockout at Kearney High School earlier Tuesday


Tyler Caudill exits a plane and surrenders after Grand Island Police fired chemical munitions through an open door at the Central Nebraska Regional Airport on Tuesday afternoon. (Independent/Josh Salmon)

Tyler Caudill of Phillips allegedly tried to gain access to Kearney High School on Monday and then traveled to Central Nebraska Regional Airport on Tuesday and barricaded himself inside a private aircraft.

Grand Island police were called to the airport at 1:39 p.m. Tuesday. Police had been informed that a man had passed out in the back of a twin-engine jet, which was parked north of the air traffic control tower. A pilot discovered the man and saw a rifle and a bag. The pilot took the AR-15 style rifle and bag out of the plane.

Police assumed they were dealing with a barricaded gunman. The pilot thought there might be another weapon on the plane, but he wasn’t certain, said GIPD Capt. Dean Elliott.

Police attempted to make contact with the 19-year-old Caudill. Officers called out to him on public address systems in their vehicles, but got no response. Eventually, police were able to communicate with him.

“We continued to try to negotiate with him. He refused to listen to us,” Elliott said.

During the two hours, the suspect may have been trying to take off, he said. It appeared that he was “manipulating the switches and the headsets and everything inside the cockpit.”

Caudill exited the plane and surrendered, with his hands up, at 3:12 p.m. after police fired chemical munitions through an open door. He was arrested by the department’s tactical response team. A second gun was never found.

Administrators at Kearney High School say Caudill attempted to open the secure doors of the school on Monday. When contacted by staff members, he said he was there to visit a student.

“However, he had no legitimate reason to be on school property or listed as an authorized contact for the student and was escorted from the school grounds,” says a news release from the Kearney school.

On Tuesday, Kearney police received information from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office that Caudill had taken a family vehicle and rifle from their home and his location was unknown. Due to the incident at Kearney High School on Monday, Kearney police notified Kearney Public Schools and the high school was placed in lockout as law enforcement attempted to locate Caudill.

“Information related to Caudill was shared with local law enforcement in an attempt to determine Caudill’s whereabouts and well-being,” the school release says.

How did the suspect make it onto the plane?

“It appears he threw his bags and his weapons over the fence and then walked through a building,” Elliott said. With nothing in his hands, he walked through the building, collected his belongings and boarded the plane.

During the negotiations, Elliott was in contact with the FBI, “since this happened on airport grounds,” he said. A local FBI agent arrived at the airport.

Caudill was arrested on state charges. But “the FBI will look at it from their end,” he said.

Local officers and the FBI will work with the county attorney’s office “and determine what’s the best course of action,” Elliott said.

An Air National Guard helicopter was on the ground near the parked aircraft, but the helicopter was not involved in the standoff, he said.

The plane, which is not locally owned, arrived in Grand Island Tuesday morning and was scheduled to depart Tuesday night.

The aircraft holds eight people, said Mike Olson, the airport’s executive director.

After the arrest, investigators and officers searched the aircraft and its contents to make sure the suspect didn’t leave anything on the plane.

Aircraft mechanics will have to check the aircraft because it’s not known what the man might have done to the controls, Elliott said.

Grand Island police brought a canine unit to the scene. Also responding was the Grand Island Fire Department.

The Nebraska State Patrol provided perimeter security, Elliott said. Airport administrators were also involved.

In addition to Kearney police, the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office provided assistance in the case.

A 19-year-old Phillips man was arrested Tuesday afternoon after he allegedly barricaded himself inside a private jet at Central Nebraska Regional Airport.

Tyler Caudill exited the plane and surrendered after Grand Island Police fired chemical munitions through an open door.

Earlier, a pilot had found Caudill sleeping in the back of the 8-passenger aircraft. The pilot took an AR-15-style rifle and a bag, which apparently belonged to Caudill, and removed it from the aircraft.

Police assumed that Caudill was a barricaded gunman, because they didn’t know if he had another weapon. A second weapon was never found, said GIPD Police Capt. Dean Elliott.

During the two hours in which police communicated with Caudill, it appeared that he may have been trying to take off in the twin-engine jet, Elliott said.

Elliott is under the impression that Caudill is the same man who visited Kearney High School this week. That school went into a “secure lockout” Tuesday morning after the principal was alerted to some suspicious activity near the school. The lockout ended as the school day closed on Tuesday.

Story has been updated to add that a pilot removed an AR-15-style rifle from the plane before Caudill surrendered.

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