|(Above) WCHA Referee Peter Friesema|
|(above) WCHA ref Butch Mousseaux|
Peter Friesema, a WCHA referee who officiated UAA games over the weekend alongside referee WCHA Butch Mousseaux, was checking in at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport with a traveling companion late Saturday night. He pointed out that the Alaska Airlines ticket agent had put his sticker on his friend's luggage.
The agent, Courtney Grant, said it didn't matter since they were both traveling to the same destination. At any rate, the bags were already headed along the conveyor belt to the sorting area below.
What Friesema said next temporarily shut down the airport, forced hundreds of passengers into the cold night air, caused many to miss connections, and landed him in jail.
"But my friend's bag has a bomb in it," the agent remembers him saying, according to a charging document. He recounted it to authorities slightly differently, more to the effect of "what if my friend's bag has a bomb in it?"
Either way, his comment was "perhaps an effort to be funny or flirtacious," Assistant District Attorney Adam Alexander said Sunday before Friesema made a court appearance.
Friesema, 44, may have been joking but no one in the airline business is amused by off-hand comments about bombs.
Just after midnight, early on Sunday morning, officials locked down the main terminal at the international airport, with airport police telling people as they evacuated the building that there had been a "security breach."
Chilled passengers, many of them in summer clothes from their warm departure cities, huddled in doorways to keep warm.
Friesema had already cleared security; police found him in the Alaska Airlines boardroom. The FBI interviewed him, as well as the ticket agent, and determined the threat was not credible, Parrott said.
Friesema is charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. The FBI and state authorities are still evaluating whether to bring additional charges. Airport police had referred charges of both disorderly conduct and making terroristic threats, a felony, which can apply if a person makes a false report that causes evacuation of a building or public place.
At jail court on Sunday afternoon, Friesema wore a yellow jailhouse uniform. His hands were shackled in front of him. His silvery hair was neatly cut. He looked worried and spoke so softly the magistrate, Catherine Rogers, had to ask him to speak up.
He pleaded not guilty. He said he makes about $50,000 a year.
Rogers ordered him to stay in Alaska and lowered his bail from $5,000 -- set when the terroristic threat charge was pending -- to $1,500.
"I find you to be a flight risk," Rogers said, alluding to the fact Friesema lives in Colorado. "You need to have this resolved."
She set his next court hearing for Nov. 26.
"If I have to stay in Alaska, I'll lose my job, my career," he told her.
Friesema didn't say in court what he does for a living, but he's listed on the website of the Central Hockey League, a mid-level professional league, as a referee. He's also a referee with the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and has been working games in Alaska for years. On Friday and Saturday, he officiated at UAA's Kendall Hockey Classic at Sullivan Arena. He also appears to have aviation experience. He says on his Facebook page that he went to flight school in Florida and studied aviation management, as well as criminal justice, at Minnesota State University.
Maybe a half dozen flights involving hundreds of passengers were affected, Parrott said. Some planes arriving early Sunday pulled up at the North Terminal or their passengers were directed to go there, and other planes scheduled to take off around 1 a.m. departed late, causing passengers to miss connections in other cities. A number of airlines were affected, including Alaska, Delta, U.S. Airways and United, he said.
The airport is reviewing its procedures in light of the incident, Parrott said.