In the frenzy of the holidays, Mark Tarner forgot about the unloaded handgun in his work briefcase.
It was not until the bag was moving through the security check-point at O’Hare International Airport Tuesday night that he suddenly remembered.
And by then, it was too late.
Tarner was arrested by Chicago police, accused of trying to board an aircraft with a weapon.
His wife and four children stood shocked. The family had been headed to Mexico for a vacation.
“I’ve had bad days,” Tarner told the Tribune on Thursday, an hour after he bonded out of the Cook County Jail. “But this was a very bad day.”
An X-ray machine detected the gun in Tarner’s bag around 11:15 p.m., according to Chicago police.
“It was just an innocent mistake,” Tarner told the Tribune on Thursday.
He said he normally keeps the gun at work for safety reasons, but put it in a hidden compartment in his briefcase a couple weeks ago to protect an employee as he escorted her out of the building one night.
“I put it in my briefcase, and I totally forgot about it,” he said.
Tarner stayed in the Cook County Jail until Thursday afternoon, after posting a $3,000 bond.
When he arrived at the jail, he tried contacting people for help to pay his bond, but his family was en route to Mexico, and when he called the office, employees hung up the phone when they were told the call was coming from the Cook County Jail.
Tarner finally got through to someone Thursday morning, he said.
He said he is confident the case will be dismissed.
He became emotional talking to The Tribune about the support he received as word of his arrest surfaced Thursday. He said half a dozen friends were waiting for him outside the jail when he walked out, and that his voicemail mailbox was full with several dozen messages.
Firearms can go on airplanes, but not in a carry-on bag. They must be in a hard-sided and locked container that must be in checked luggage. Firearms also must be declared to airline personnel, according to the Transportation Security Administration website.
Chicago police officer Veejay Zala said it is rare that someone accidentally brings a gun in a carry-on piece of luggage.
"People inadvertently bring scissors, or a pocket knife (in their carry-on luggage), and a lot of times those things are confiscated and a person is sent on his way," Zala said. "It really depends on the egregiousness."