The prestigious Barrow Neurological Institute of Phoenix isn't saying much about the airport arrest on Friday of AR-15 toting top brain scientist Peter Nathan Steinmetz.
The institute is, however, erasing Steinmetz from its website in what appears to be a move designed to curb the dreadful PR arising from this embarrassing scandal.
Steinmetz and his son brought guns to the airport in November of 2013, too, but they weren't arrested. Phoenix police say it's not illegal to bring firearms into the airport -- the public can't bring firearms past the security checkpoints, is all. Steinmetz was arrested on Friday because, police claim, the muzzle of his semi-automatic rifle was pointed briefly at two people as he removed it from his shoulder.
Carmelle Malkovich, spokeswoman for Dignity Health's St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, home of the Barrow institute, told New Times this morning that, no, we could not photograph the "Steinmetz Laboratory." Nor did the Barrow have a new public comment, she advised, except to say, curiously, that, "I do want to clarify that Dr. Steinmetz is a part time researcher and does not treat patients."
Our previous story never said he did. As we were the first to report yesterday, Steinmetz is (was?) the principal investigator of the institute's Neuroengineering/Human Neurophysiology Laboratory. A Johns Hopkins-trained M.D. and PhD, Steinmetz has co-authored more than a dozen peer-reviewed papers about the structure of the brain.
Something may be wrong with his brain, as many in the public have speculated. After all, most people wouldn't bring AR-15s to one of the nation's busiest airports just to buy a cup of coffee. No information has been released as to why Steinmetz took the gun to the airport, but police speculate it was to make the point that he could do it legally. Still, a highly educated brain scientist should be smart enough to realize that an activist-style stunt like this would cause bad PR for his employer, which could lead to a problem with his job. So it appears something else is going on here, other than just gun-rights activism. (Maybe he's just worried that the airport lacks security and paranoid about his personal safety.)
The Barrow institute, via Malkovich, said yesterday, "We are aware of the situation and are taking it very seriously. At present this issue is being handled by Human Resources and our policy is not to comment on HR matters."
This morning, though, we noticed the Barrow website had made some telling changes.
Steinmetz's bio page has been deleted:
A cached version is still extant in Google.
has experienced a name change as of today from "Steinmetz Laboratory" to "Neuroengineering Laboratory." Whatever glory Steinmetz enjoyed from the lab-branding has been relegated to medical waste.
Finally, http://www.thebarrow.org/Research/Hypothalamic_Hamartoma/204299, another page dedicated to Steinmetz and his research, has been deleted.
Malkovich hasn't responded yet to questions about the website changes.
Meantime, we and other news media have requests submitted to Phoenix police for police reports on the incidents from Friday and 2013.
In addition to his job at the Barrow, Steinmetz is an associate professor for the University of Arizona's College of Medicine in Phoenix; the UofA hasn't removed his webpage from its site -- yet, anyway.
Steinmetz has reportedly been released on a $5,000 bond. We've been unable to reach him so far. Check back for updates.
UPDATE: Carrie Harmon, a spokeswoman with the Transportation Security Administration, tells New Times that the TSA is charged with preventing people from bringing firearms onto aircraft. Beyond, that, "it's a law enforcement issue." We asked her if TSA has a policy for its agents that lets them know what to do if they see someone at the airport with a semi-automatic rifle. She later emailed with following statement:
"As we discussed, federal law prohibits passengers from carrying firearms onto an aircraft. TSA screens for firearms at the checkpoint, and our officers alert law enforcement if we find them. A law enforcement officer takes possession of the weapon, interviews the passenger, and determines any criminal penalties. TSA has the ability to access a civil penalty of up to $11,000 for bringing a firearm at the checkpoint. More on firearms at: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/firearms-and-ammunition
"Firearms in the public areas (which do not include areas beyond the security check points) are regulated by individual airports in compliance with state and local laws, which vary among jurisdictions.
"If TSA employees see illegal or suspicious activity in the public area of the airport, they alert law enforcement. In addition, if a TSA officer sees a firearm in the public area--regardless of state or local laws at that airport--he or she would alert law enforcement. For example, when an individual brought a firearm to PHX on July 25, a TSA officer was among those who reported this to law enforcement. In these cases, law enforcement responds, investigates and determines the response."
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