Shortly before 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, a cleaning crew staffer at Tampa International Airport made a startling discovery while emptying garbage cans in the women's restroom on the third level of the main terminal.
Inside one of the garbage cans was a bag. It contained a bolt carrier and firing pin to an AK-47 rifle, an empty 30-round AK-47 magazine and four slides to Glock Model 22 .40-caliber handguns.
At about the same time the gun parts were found, Pasco County sheriff's deputies were learning the identities of siblings they say were involved in shooting at a Zephyrhills police car on Tuesday. One of those siblings bought an AK-47 at a pawn shop in Zephyrhills five years ago, according to Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, and initially, investigators were looking into whether the gun parts may have been connected to that shooting.
But by later Thursday, it appeared the weapons parts were not connected to the Pasco case, investigators in that county said.
"The gun parts have not been linked to any active investigation by any agency at this time," said airport spokeswoman Brenda Geoghagan in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are assisting the investigation, Geoghagan said.
FDLE is checking the weapons parts for fingerprints, said Pasco sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin.
Authorities were tight-lipped on what danger the weapons parts might have posed. Geoghagan said the gun parts were put in the bathroom before they went past any screening devices.
In the Zephyrhills case, authorities began looking for siblings Ryan Edward Dougherty, 21; his brother, Dylan Dougherty Stanley, 26; and sister, Lee Grace E. Dougherty, 29, after someone shot at the police car during a traffic stop. The siblings have a stockpile of weapons and "are on a mission," Nocco said.
They now are on the run, authorities say, and the FBI suspects the trio robbed a bank in Valdosta, Ga., on Tuesday. The FBI has issued warrants for their arrests in that heist, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.
Dylan Dougherty Stanley bought an AK-47 at a Zephyrhills pawn shop five years ago, Pasco officials say, which is what prompted authorities to initially investigate whether there might have been a connection with the weapons parts found at the airport.