Artist with “Strange Watch” Charged with “Possessing an Explosive Device” at U.S. Airport: Cite “watch itself was on incorrect time.”

17 Nov

Artist with “Strange Watch” Charged with “Possessing an Explosive Device” at U.S. Airport: Cite “watch itself was on incorrect time.”

Police officials said that no actual explosives were found but “McGann was carrying potentially dangerous materials and appeared to have made alterations to his boots which were unusually large and stuffed with layers of insoles.”

Mug Shot of accused Terrorist Plotter Artist Geoff McGann

Authorities also said their suspicions were aroused because McGann had no checked bag, carried a backpack that contained no clothes, was wearing a military-style shirt with a tourniquet band built into each sleeve, was wearing shoes two sizes too big, and his shoes had homemade inserts with cavities that could be used to hide explosives. Except they didn’t hide anything, he was on a day long business trip, and he contended his shoes were designed to make him look taller.

“When you add it all up, it didn’t add up,” Police spokesman Nelson said.

Nelson said McGann had “all the components” to make an “improvised explosive device.” That is except for anything that actually could explode.

By Nate Thayer

Geoff McGann had a very bad day Friday. The California artist was arrested after trying to board an airplane in Oakland with what appears to be a uniquely modified Timex and now stands accused of being a terrorist.

McGann placed his “ornate” watch in the plastic bin while going through airport security on a return flight to his home near Los Angeles, which U.S. Transportation Safety Agency officers determined “could be used to make a timing device for a bomb.” McGann, 49, of Rancho Palos Verdes was taken into custody Thursday night after his watch was inspected and said to have “switches, wires and fuses”, according to Sgt. J.D. Nelson, of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, even though a bomb squad, which arrived within five minutes, determined there were no explosive materials in the watch. He attracted the attention of authorities after placing a coat and his watch in a plastic bin bound for the screening machine. The watch included a toggle switch, wires and a circuit board, said Sgt. J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.

And the clincher? According to the police spokesman “the watch itself was on incorrect time.”

Advertising Creative Director, Artist and accused Terrorist Geoff McGann

McGann told Transportation Security Administration officers that he’s an artist and the watch is art, Nelson said.

McGann was charged with possessing materials to make an explosive device, sheriff’s officials said, and taken to Santa Rita Jail where he remains in custody on $250,000 bond.

Police officials said that no actual explosives were found but “McGann was carrying potentially dangerous materials and appeared to have made alterations to his boots which were unusually large and stuffed with layers of insoles.”

Nelson said McGann had “all the components” to make an “improvised explosive device.” That is except for anything that actually could explode.

Authorities also said their suspicions were aroused because McGann had no checked bag, carried a backpack that contained no clothes, was wearing a military-style shirt with a tourniquet band built into each sleeve, was wearing shoes two sizes too big, and his shoes had homemade inserts with cavities that could be used to hide explosives. Except they didn’t hide anything, he was on a day long business trip, and he contended his shoes were designed to make him look taller.

“When you add it all up, it didn’t add up,” Police spokesman Nelson said.

McGann said he’d been on a business day-trip in the Bay Area and was about to return to Los Angeles, that the watch was art and the shoes were altered to make him look taller.

The officials didn’t buy McGann’s story. “He does do art kind of stuff, but what reasonable person would bring a watch like that into an airport and think that’s OK?”  Nelson said. “You may have a toy gun as art, but would you bring it to the airport?”

Some of accused terrorist airplane bomber photographic art work

An officer arrested McGann on “suspicion of possession of materials that can be used to make a destructive device” and is being held on $150,000 bail, according to Alameda County records

.

But a cursory inspection of documents, online references, and social media of Geoph McGann’s profile does not exactly fit the profile of a terrorist. In fact it pretty much describes a good chunk of quite normal citizens with a dash of free spirited quirkiness. Or pretty much a spot on profile of an average artist.

McGann, according to various biographies, his Face book page, his Linked In profile, and numerous news stories is an accomplished artist, photographer, advertising creative director and martial artist. Among other accomplishments is what is reported to be his key contribution to creating the Nike sneaker company advertising campaign “Just do it.”

He graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts and Visual Communication Design from the Art College of Design in Pasadena California in 1987 and worked for a Seattle Washington advertising firm as their creative director in the 1990’s.

 

Jailed advertising exec and artist and accused Terrorist at a gallery show of his artwork

He currently is Managing/Creative Director of a Los Angeles company, Locomotus which focuses on “Diversity Training Program/ Advertising/Design.” One biography says “Geoff is one of the country’s top creative educators, with over twenty years experience as a Creative Director, Writer/Director, Photographer, Fine-Arts Designer and Teacher” and another biography says “Geoff has held ECD positions at Public Interest, a non-profit advertising agency/production company dedicated solely to cause-marketing initiatives, funded by The Gates Foundation (Amnesty, AIDS-AID, Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Wounded Warriors). He also founded and supervised EDO the branded-content entertainment division at Ogilvy in Los Angeles” and “Geoff has held the Program Director position at 72U, the in-house advertising and communications school at 72andSunny, and currently, he is the Managing Creative Director at Generator, a creative portfolio development program in Los Angeles.”

 

Ad executive accused of using lefts in his shoes he contends were to add the appearance of height to hide explosives, none of which were found on his possession when checking in at airport for flight home

In 2006, McGann “signed on as Creative Director with Public Interest, a nonprofit advertising agency dedicated to producing high impact public service advertising and messaging for social change. The addition of McGann – an award-winning creative, director, and photographer – reflects a growth and independence experienced by the agency over the past several months. “Geoff’s arrival marks the beginning of a new era for Public Interest,” said President and Executive Creative Director Michael Franzini. “He is one of the great creative thinkers in advertising, and I see his enthusiasm for our work as a sure sign that we’re doing something right. I’m excited about the great things we will do together.” McGann comes to Public Interest with a versatile creative portfolio that spans the ad agency, photography, and commercial production arenas.”

 

Among major advertising companies, McGann is listed as having worked as a Creative Director “for industry leaders Wieden + Kennedy, Portland and Ogilvy & Mather, Los Angeles, among others. His work for clients including Nike, Miller Beer, and MTV won awards in every major advertising show.” McGann is quoted in a news release by San Francisco based Public Interest as saying: “After doing this for over fifteen years, the notion of working with a non-profit organization that does marketing and creative for worthy causes is exciting.”

McGann’s Linked In and other online sites list his interests as “Photography/HD Videography/Poetry/Jiu Jitsu”, that he belongs to the Directors Guild of America, and has won honors and awards which include Cannes film festival Gold Lion, The One Show Gold, Communication Arts, Pan American Jiu Jitsu Gold Medal 2009, US Open Jiu Jitsu Gold 2007, 2008, and 2009, and the American National Jiu Jitsu Gold in 2007, 2008, and 2009.

 

Artist accused explosives terrorist

From January 2007 until now, he has worked as Co-Founder/owner of company, specializing in all types of video and film production in all media, with special emphasis in On-Line content development.

Nelson adds, “as a triggering device, absolutely, absolutely. It absolutely could have been a triggering device. Obviously he was missing a couple of things along the way.”

A Southern California resident is in custody after authorities say he tried to board a plane in Oakland with a watch modified by materials that could have been part of a bomb.

Experience

He has held positions as Executive Creative Director/Producer since 1987 for several major advertising firms including in the Creative Director/Entertainment Division Los Angeles Office  of Ogilvy & Mather, Writer, Creative Director on multiple accounts (primarily NIKE), all media, and Executive Producer on special On-Line film/video content at Wieden + Kennedy including Writer and Creative Director on the Nike “Just Do It” account “from inception” as well as Miller Lite, MTV, Subaru, and the Gap.

His artwork and photography has won acclaim and been shown at gallery exhibitions, adding “It is not uncommon for an artist to find a day job necessary to help support their art, but McGann creates art to help support his day job. As Creative director for Public Interest, a 501(C) 3 non profit, he receives a modest salary in exchange for the pleasure of doing work he is passionate about, creating public service ads for an array of prevalent causes. Public Interest works with big name foundations such as the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the American Film Institute, creating public awareness to affect social change.  The agency is also involved with the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps support injured troops when they return home.”

He certainly doesn’t fit the profile of your average terrorist. The news article on a recent art gallery show cited “stand-out pieces included a series of ethereal images suggestive of angels and Hindu Goddesses where women were draped in blurred twinkling lights posed against black backgrounds. Alongside were a serene black and white landscape and several portraits that expressed a blend of glossy sophistication and decadence. “Riders”, a surfer-themed series, used light and shadow to depict this well-known Southern California icon with a slightly ominous undertone. This was Geoff’s first major exhibition and he was surrounded by friends, family and admirers. Geoff’s daughter Skylar, dressed in a pink princess outfit, pointed out her favorite photo, a portrait of a glamorously pensive woman in an open button down shirt and unraveled tie.“ adding “McGann’s background in advertising and commercial direction is apparent. Some of his photos could easily be imagined as print ads; particularly the series entitled “Starters” that features athletes at the ready, toned limbs glistening.  Using an exaggerated sense of perspective to create a sense of impending action, these are some of his best photos. Prices ranged from $350 to $1,400, with twenty percent of all profits donated to Public Interest. “

But none of these details seemed to sway the TSA or local California terrorist task forces who arrested McGann “after airport security found him wearing a watch that looked like a timing device for an explosive,” they said. The fact that the bomb squad was called to the checkpoint and determined there was no explosive device connected to the watch didn’t seem to diffuse the concern of the TSA terrorist detectors.

Photo art of accused terrorist McGann arrested fro wearing an unusual watch and shoes too big for his feet

A Seattle Times article describing McGann’s work at the Seattle based advertising firm paints a portrait of a highly successful if quirky advertising genius, referring to the company as “off the beaten track but still on the mark” and the “Portland-based advertising agency whose commercials for Nike have bewitched an entire generation into believing that “Just Do It” referred to exercise, not sex. Most advertising agencies are stress factories built on hustle, schmooze and art. The secret to W&K’s success isn’t witchcraft, but something equally alien to American industry: creativity” and “encourages folks to rope in brainstorms wherever they occur. Geoff McGann knows this. While other feet spend their workday stuck under a desk, McGann’s feet skip over the chilly Willamette River behind a water-ski boat. Some of his best ideas come while he’s water-skiing. One day early last fall, the 26-year-old copywriter was thinking about how to best capture Nike’s new Air Flight basketball shoes. He dropped into the water, swam back to the boat and reached for the tape recorder he had installed for brainstorms such as this. He spoke only two words: “Twilight Zone.” The article describes a business meeting at the company as including “Geoff McGann is, predictably, barefoot. His colleagues tease that they don’t give him back his shoes until 5, or else he’ll sneak out early. Everyone helps himself to jelly beans from a giant candy jar Wieden keeps in his office….McGann returns to his office and rests his feet atop the Fred Meyer shopping cart someone has deposited there and which he plans to keep. (“In case I get kicked out of my house, I’ll have someplace to go.”)

McGann, who was hired when he was 24 years old, is portrayed as a quirky genius. “That’s young even by advertising standards, but his bold style fits in well here. If he feels strongly about an idea, he’s given the freedom to try it out, even if the bosses are skeptical.”If you’re happy, you do your best work,” he says. “And I’m happy here.”

That quite clearly is not what Geoff McGann is feeling tonight, locked up in a jail cell and charged with plotting to blow up an airplane because he designed a watch and war “suspicious clothes and shoes with lifts in them.

I am purely guessing, but I suspect that Mr. McGann will have all charges dropped soon and the Transportation Security Administration and the Alameda County Sherriff’s Office will have considerable explaining to be. This appears strongly to be a case of Arrested for being an artist, where the TSA has effectively made quirky creativity, even those who have demonstrated their success at the pinnacle of corporate America, to be crimes that fall within the category of terrorist plotting.

One Response to “Artist with “Strange Watch” Charged with “Possessing an Explosive Device” at U.S. Airport: Cite “watch itself was on incorrect time.””

  1. macegr November 17, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    He has two small dogs in his home in LA. He didn’t expect to be away more than one day…he’s going to be arraigned on Monday and who knows how long it will be until he gets back home. Those dogs are probably pretty hungry and thirsty now.

    Like

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