FBI searches home, probes background of Brian Howard

ABC7 Eyewitness News I-Team Investigation

Jason Knowles Image
Saturday, September 27, 2014
FBI searches home, probes background of Brian Howard
The FBI entered the home of the man charged with setting fire to the FAA Control Center in Aurora, looking for information and evidence.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- FBI evidence techs and investigators went into the Naperville townhouse of 36-year-old, Brian Howard with a search warrant Friday night.

Howard now faces one felony count of destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities. Agents believe he's the person who cut every radar feed into the regional FAA facility in Aurora and set fire to gas soaked rags early this morning, stopping all of those flights.

Investigators say that Howard used an access card to enter in the control center. He was seen on video surveillance dragging a black pelican case, and according to investigators Howard arrived at the control center just after 5:30 a.m. in his SUV.

Minutes later, a private message was posted on his Facebook account.

It said, "Take a hard look in the mirror, I have. This is why I am about to take out ZAU [the call letters for the Aurora facility] and my life. April, pop, love you guys and I am sorry. Leaving you with a big mess. Do your best to move on from me please.

Feel like I give a [expletive] for the first time in a long time again... But not for too long (ha ha!) so take care everyone."

"He seemed like an everyday normal kind of guy to me," said Colin McGrath, Howard's neighbor. "I mean, the last time i saw him he was bringing Portillo's in. Seems like a normal dude."

After that suicidal Facebook message and the fire, paramedics followed smoke and a blood trail to find the suspect. They saw a gas can, burned towels and found with the suspect, "actively slicing his throat."

At the same time, Naperville police tell the I-Team they were heading to Howard's home to do a well-being check to see if there were any potential victims in his house. No one was inside.

"It is really very terrifying really knowing someone so disturbed would be living in this neighborhood," Leiha Cooper, neighbor, said.

Naperville police say before this, the 36-year-old only had a few minor traffic citations from 2007.

The I-Team has also learned that Howard was a machinist mate in the navy from 1996 to 2000.

As of now he works for the Harris Corporation, a contract employee at the Aurora Control Center for eight years, in the basement. He had key card access and was being transferred to Hawaii.