ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) — A NASA astronaut was arrested Monday on battery and attempted kidnapping charges after allegedly trying to subdue a romantic rival with pepper spray and abduct her from a parking lot at Orlando International Airport, police said.
Navy Capt. Lisa Marie Nowak, who was a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Discovery in July, and Colleen Shipman were both reported to be “in a relationship” with astronaut Bill Oefelein, a Navy commander, according to a police report of the incident.
Nowak, 43, has been charged with battery, attempted kidnapping, attempted burglary to a vehicle and destruction of evidence. Police have recommended Nowak be held without bond.
According to the report, she told police that her relationship with Oefelein was “more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship.”
Nowak drove from Houston, Texas, to Orlando to meet Shipman, who was flying the same route, to talk with the woman about her alleged relationship with Oefelein, the report said.
Shipman is an engineer assigned to the 45th Launch Support Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, near the Kennedy Space Center.
Police: Woman feared for safety
Shipman told police that she arrived at the airport at about 1 a.m. but had to wait two hours for her luggage to arrive.
Once she retrieved her bags, she said she took a bus to the lot where her car was parked, noticing a woman wearing a trench coat who appeared to be following her.
Fearing for her safety, Shipman quickly stepped into her car, the police report said, adding that she reported hearing “running footsteps” behind her.
Shipman closed and locked her car door as Nowak slapped the window of the car and tried to open the car door, the report said.
Nowak told Shipman her ride had not arrived and asked for help, but Shipman refused, saying she would send help instead. When Nowak complained she couldn’t hear Shipman and started to cry, Shipman opened her car window “about 2 inches” — and Nowak sprayed pepper spray into the car, police said.
Diapers for long car trip
Shipman, her eyes burning, drove to a toll booth in the lot to summon police. An officer went to the bus stop and found Nowak, who was wearing a different coat, the report said. Approaching the stop, the officer observed Nowak put some items into a trash can, the report said.
Those items included a wig and a plastic bag containing a carbon dioxide-powered BB pistol, the report said.
Inside a bag Nowak was carrying, the officer found a tan trench coat, a new steel mallet, a new folding knife with a 4-inch blade, 3 to 4 feet of rubber tubing, large plastic garbage bags and about $600 in cash, the report said.
Nowak admitted the details of Shipman’s allegations, according to the police report, and permitted a search of her car.
Inside the car, police found an a half-dozen latex gloves, MapQuest directions from Houston to Orlando International Airport, e-mails from Shipman to Oefelein, diapers that Nowak said she used to eliminate stops along the highway, a letter indicating how much she loved Oefelein and directions to Shipman’s home address in Florida, the report said.
Asked about the BB pistol, Nowak told police it “was going to be used to entice Ms. Shipman to talk with her,” the report said.
“Mrs. Nowak stated that she was not trying to cause any bodily harm to Ms. Shipman and that she only wanted to scare Ms. Shipman into talking with her,” the police report said.
Nowak, who is married with three children and has been an astronaut since 1996, flew her first shuttle mission in July as a mission specialist aboard Discovery.
Oefelein, 41, was the pilot of the last shuttle mission, also aboard Discovery, which flew in December.
Johnson Space Center spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said that Oefelein would not make any comments through NASA at this time. To her knowledge, no one from NASA had spoken with Nowak yet, she said.
Two astronauts, Navy Capt. Chris Ferguson and retired Air Force Col. Steve Lindsey, have gone to Florida to establish contact with Nowak, Hawley said, adding that her status as an active-duty astronaut remains unchanged.
Lindsey, the chief astronaut, was the commander of Nowak’s shuttle flight.