Man accused of driving onto New Orleans airport runway facing drunk-driving, hit-and-run counts _lowres

The damaged vehicle from the Louis Armstrong car cash on Aug. 5, 2015

Kaleb Clement had been in legal trouble before, but it doesn’t appear he had been accused of anything quite like what authorities say he did Wednesday afternoon.

The 23-year-old resident of Paulina in St. James Parish crashed through two fences around Louis Armstrong International Airport in Kenner and drove onto an active runway before bailing out of his car and being captured while trying to hide behind an air-conditioning unit at a nearby business, officials said.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies ultimately jailed Clement on one count each of hit-and-run driving and driving while intoxicated.

The bizarre incident did not cause any flight delays at the airport, spokeswoman Michelle Wilcut said.

It was about 1 p.m. when the Sheriff’s Office said it received reports that a blue Dodge Challenger had been seen crashing through a perimeter fence on the northwest side of the airport.

The car then drove through airport property and onto an active runway before plowing through a fence on the northeast side of the facility, said the Sheriff’s Office, which maintains a security detail at the airport.

Authorities said Clement eventually got out of his car and ran to a repair shop in the nearby 1800 block of Veterans Memorial Boulevard. He tried to conceal himself behind an air conditioner, but a passerby spotted him and called 911 to report a suspicious person, Kenner Police Lt. Brian McGregor said.

Kenner police officers soon showed up and detained Clement, McGregor said.

Sheriff’s deputies took custody of him and booked him into the parish jail in Gretna after he was identified as the driver of the Challenger that had driven through the airport fences.

Reached by telephone later in the day, St. James Sheriff’s Office Capt. Claude Louis said his agency was familiar with Clement — but for different reasons.

Clement had prior marijuana-related probation violations in St. James, Louis said. He also was arrested on a count of domestic abuse battery, but prosecutors did not pursue that charge.

Attempts to contact Clement were unsuccessful.

More cars plow through airport perimeter fences across the United States than many people may realize.

In 2010, police said a suspected carjacker leading officers on a chase barreled through a fence at Dallas Love Field and drove across runways. A man who was believed to be drunk reportedly drove onto a runway at Philadelphia International Airport in 2012, and a similar incident occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in March, according to media reports.

Wilcut said she couldn’t discuss whether Armstrong Airport officials had started considering ways to prevent a repetition of Wednesday’s events.