PHOENIX (AP) — A medical researcher at a renowned neurological hospital who was arrested last month after police say he pointed a loaded rifle toward a woman and her teenage daughter inside Phoenix's main airport said Monday that his firearm "was never pointed at anyone" and he was just trying to make a political statement.
Peter Nathan Steinmetz, 54, was carrying the AR-15 rifle July 25 inside Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport's busy Terminal 4 and bought a cup of coffee before stopping in front of some passenger gates, a court document says.
Steinmetz removed the rifle from his shoulder, causing the muzzle to face a mother and her 17-year-old daughter, authorities said. They told police they feared for their lives.
"I am a peaceful political activist and my purpose in walking around the airport with my AR-15 rifle was entirely political in nature," Steinmetz said at a news conference with his attorney. "I am also an educated and responsible gun owner. ... As I was making this political statement, I was careful not to disturb or endanger anyone.
"At all times, I was extremely careful to ensure my firearm was never pointed at anyone. ... The safety was engaged at all times," Steinmetz said.
Phoenix police said guns aren't restricted in that area of the airport. But "it certainly was concerning to other passengers at the airport, not knowing why this individual was walking around with an assault rifle slung over his arm," Sgt. Steve Martos said.
Martos also said it wasn't the first time Steinmetz has brought a weapon to Sky Harbor. Officers questioned him Nov. 13 when he picked up his wife from the airport armed with an assault rifle. Steinmetz told police he was exercising his right to bear arms and he wasn't arrested in that incident, Martos said.
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