ANCHORAGE — A Colorado hockey referee charged with making a joke that shut down the main terminal at Alaska’s largest airport has been released from jail, but not without facing criticism from an airport manager who says a teenager would know better than to joke about a bomb in a bag.
Bail was set at $1,500 Sunday for Peter Friesema of Highlands Ranch, who is charged with disorderly conduct. The Anchorage Daily News reports Magistrate Catherine Rogers at arraignment ordered Friesema, 44, to stay in Alaska.
Friesema was in Alaska to referee games in a University of Alaska Anchorage hockey tournament.
Airport authorities said Friesema late Saturday night checked in at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport with a traveling companion and saw an Alaska Airlines ticket agent put a sticker for his baggage on his friend’s luggage.
The agent, authorities said, told Friesema the bags would end up at the same destination and were already moving down the conveyor belt.
Friesema then reportedly uttered the words that led to his arrest.
“But my friend’s bag has a bomb in it,” the agent heard him say, according to a charging document. Friesema told investigators later that he had said, “What if my friend’s bag has a bomb in it?”
Assistant District Attorney Adam Alexander said Friesema’s comment may have been an attempt to be funny or flirtatious. Airport Manager John Parrott said the comment was taken seriously.
“He did something that in this day and age a teenager would know better than to do,” Parrott said.
Just after midnight, officials locked down the main terminal. They ordered the hundreds of people inside to evacuate because there had been a security breach.
Many were not dressed for the below-freezing temperatures outside. Parrott said shuttle buses after 1 a.m. began taking passengers to another terminal. People also found relief from the cold in the rental car garage, Parrott said.
Friesema had passed through the security checkpoint and was found in the Alaska Airlines boardroom. He was interviewed by the FBI and his luggage was screened, Parrott said.
Airport police arrested him on charges of making terroristic threats, a felony, and disorderly conduct, but prosecutors chose to charge him only on the latter count.
At arraignment in the Anchorage Jail courtroom, Friesema wore a yellow jailhouse uniform. His hands were shackled. He pleaded not guilty and requested that he be allowed to leave the state.
“If I have to stay in Alaska, I’ll lose my job, my career,” he said.
Assistant District Attorney Alexander said he would not oppose eliminating a requirement that Friesema stay in Alaska if he agreed to return to face the charge. Magistrate Rogers said she considered him a flight risk and ordered him to stay.
“I know that the airport was shut down for this. It was a huge expense to the state of Alaska and the people that were here,” she said.
Friesema, she said, can speak to an attorney about changing conditions of his release. His next court hearing was set for Nov. 26.