Valley doctor arrested with loaded rifle at airport

Posted: Updated:
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- A research doctor at Barrow Neurological Institute is in custody for allegedly pointing a loaded AR-15 rifle toward a woman and her teenage daughter inside Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Phoenix police say 54-year-old Dr. Peter Nathan Steinmetz was arrested Friday and booked into jail on suspicion of one count of disorderly conduct with a weapon.

According to police documents, Steinmetz was observed in Terminal Four, level three, ordering coffee at the Starbucks while carrying a rifle over his right shoulder in open view.

When confronted, he stated he was merely at the airport to buy a cup of coffee.

Police say he then proceeded to walk to the east end of the level three lobby where he stopped in front of the B gates, non-secure side, then turned to walk by the waiting area where people wait for passengers.

According to police documents, Steinmetz proceeded to remove the rifle from his right shoulder, causing the muzzle to face two victims sitting nearby. Both victims, a mother and her 17-year-old daughter, both stated they feared for their safety when the rifle was pointed in their direction.

"It was him being negligent in how he was manipulating the weapon," says Phoenix Police Sgt. Steve Martos. "(He) pointed it toward a couple individuals, two females, and made them nervous; made them feel threatened by them."

Technically, it's not illegal to have a gun in the airport's non-secure areas, and police believe Steinmetz was trying to prove a point on gun rights.

He has reportedly done it before... Last year, he picked someone up at Sky Harbor carrying an assault weapon. In that instance, police were called, but no arrest was made.

"There are certainly a lot of things that we can do and have rights to do, but using some common sense that taking weapons to an airport, especially in this particular case is really going to make people nervous," says Martos.

3TV has uncovered that Steinmetz is a doctor at Barrow Neurological Institute. He is listed on Barrow's website as director of the Neuroengineering program.

A statement from the hospital says: "We are aware of the situation and are taking it very seriously. At present this issue is being handled by human resources."

Steinmetz's bond was set at $5,000 Monday at his initial court appearance. He doesn't have a lawyer yet.