Convicted felon used TWIC card for port access before shooting

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Friday, March 28, 2014

A convicted felon entered the world’s largest naval installation by using a TWIC card to drive his semi-truck onto the Naval Station Norfolk on Monday and fatally shooting a Navy petty officer.

The shooting raises questions about the process the federal government uses to issue the cards, which allow millions of truck drivers, longshoremen and other workers to access ports and warehouses throughout the United States.

According to information released Thursday, March 27, Jeffrey Tyrone Savage, 35, of Chesapeake, Va., used his Transportation Worker Identification Credential to enter the port before walking onto Pier 1 and trying to access the USS Mahan after 11 p.m. on Monday, March 24.

Savage was killed by Navy security officers after he wrestled a gun away from a petty officer watching the ship. Savage shot Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Mayo, who also was working security at the Naval Station Norfolk, the Associated Press reported.

On Thursday, Navy officials reported that Savage shouldn’t have been allowed onto the port, which requires paperwork like a manifest besides a TWIC card to gain entry.

Savage was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for a shooting in North Carolina in 2005, and was released from prison on Dec. 30, 2009. In 1998, Savage was sentenced to prison for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine. The Associated Press reported Savage served nearly five years behind bars before entering a halfway house and eventually home confinement. After his supervision was revoked in 2010, Savage went back to prison until he was again moved to a halfway house in February 2012, the AP reported.

The issue of felons receiving TWIC cards has plagued the program since it began enrolling truck drivers, longshoremen and others in 2007.

During a hearing of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee for Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation in July 2007, representatives of the AFL-CIO and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition criticized the TWIC program’s then policy of placing felons on a Terrorism Watch List.

TWIC cards were supposed to securely carry biometric identification details including fingerprints, birth records and other information. The cards could be read remotely by security personnel at ports and other major commerce centers that could be potential targets of terrorism.

Problems with remotely held card readers have led most port facilities to use them merely as flash cards, though card readers are reportedly used at some facilities. A report issued by the Government Accountability Office in May 2013 pointed to multiple failures of the program in recommending Congress scrap the 10-year program for a new card system.

TWIC cards are issued by the Transportation Security Administration. Felons are eligible to receive TWIC cards if they’ve been out of prison for at least five years. Savage’s prison record appears to make any granting of a TWIC card in the last five years illegitimate.

Savage drove for Rich Square, NC-based Majette Trucking, which operates four trucks to transport refrigerated goods. According to The AP, Savage’s conviction for manslaughter came after he and another individual struggled over a gun while riding in a vehicle. During the tussle, the gun went off and the other man died. He was later found on the side of the road.

The Navy confirmed that autopsies had been performed on Mayo and Savage.

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