Neuroscientist Arrested for Pointing Rifle at Women in Phoenix Airport

Respected neuroscientist Dr. Peter Steinmetz, MD, PhD, didn't really have any specific business at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix last Friday—he says he was just looking for some coffee.

He just happened to have an AR-15 rifle slung around his shoulder at the time.

Now the 54-year-old director of the neuroengineering program at the prestigious Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix faces two counts of disorderly conduct for displaying a deadly weapon after he allegedly pointed the weapon at two women in the airport.

According to police, Steinmetz bought a cup of coffee at the airport, then walked to a lobby near some gates where he removed the rifle from his shoulder—leaving the muzzle pointed squarely at a woman and her 17-year-old daughter in an airport waiting area.

The two told authorities that they feared for their safety. There is no word on why he had the rifle with him at the airport, or if the weapon was loaded at the time of the incident.

Under Arizona law, Steinmetz was allowed to carry the rifle into non-secure parts of the airport—but actually pointing it at anyone is a different matter.

Dignity Health's St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, home of the Barrow Institute, issued a statement confirming that Steinmetz works there as a researcher but said that hospital officials would not comment on the matter except to say that they "are taking it very seriously."

On his website, Steinmetz—a graduate of the University of Minnesota and Johns Hopkins University—runs the Brain Modeling Laboratory at the Barrow Institute, where he says his primary research interests are "using single neuron recording in human epilepsy patients to study cognitive neuroscience."

Image via Steinmetz.org