Valley brain doctor kicked off Sky Harbor flight

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- A brain research doctor arrested after he brought an assault rifle to the airport this past summer was kicked off a Delta flight departing from Sky Harbor on Monday.

Dr. Peter Steinmetz, a brain researcher at a Valley hospital, was kicked off a Delta flight, he said, after quoting terrorism statistics to a fellow passenger during boarding.

Steinmetz is no stranger to airport controversy. He’s an outspoken critic of the Transportation Security Administration and believes his stance draws unwarranted scrutiny from the agency.

“My goal is actually to eliminate the TSA,” said Steinmetz, in an interview with 3TV the day after he was kicked off the Delta flight.

Steinmetz said he was boarding a Delta flight from Phoenix to Minneapolis with his wife and 13-year-old son on Monday morning. During the boarding process Steinmetz said he asked a fellow passenger if he knew the statistical unlikelihood of being killed during a terrorist attack. “[I had asked] what are your odds of being killed in a terrorist attack?’ Because we were kind of talking about what is the TSA doing there?” said Steinmetz.

After boarding, Steinmetz said a flight attendant asked him to step off the plane and talk with a TSA agent. When he refused, he said the captain of the plane kicked him off.

“Do we live in a society where there are certain bugaboo words that you’re just supposed to know you can’t say?” questioned Steinmetz. “The standard is, is it a credible threat? There’s a big difference between saying, ‘what do you think the odds of dying in a terrorist attack are,’ and, ‘I’m about to commit a terrorist attack.”’

But that’s not quite how officials said things happened. Delta confirmed one of its employees did give Steinmetz the boot, but an official close to the investigation said the TSA cleared Steinmetz at security and never again asked to speak with him.

That official also told 3TV that Steinmetz was being confrontational with Delta employees and making other passengers nervous. The official declined to be named because they aren’t authorized to give details about the incident.

An airport security expert not connected to the incident said just because a person has the legal right to say certain things at the airport doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. “It’s not the point that someone doesn’t have a right to their opinion or free speech, but understanding where you’re at and the environment you’re in. [Airports] can make people very jittery,” said Michael Shetler, president of Shetler Security International. “He’s obviously a very educated man. He should understand, this time of year, people are already nervous when they travel.”

Steinmetz said Delta offered to re-book him on a later flight or refund his money. Originally he re-booked but ultimately decided not to take his trip.