The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has declined felony prosecution of the man accused of making a bomb threat at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport that shuttered operations for more than two hours.

County Attorney Bill Montgomery said he doubted prosecutors could prove the “required elements of a felony hoax offense beyond a reasonable doubt,” but he also mentioned that airport personnel and law enforcement handled the situation appropriately and professionally.

John Nichols, 61, of California, was checking a bag for his flight July 7 and, “according to the ticketing agent, posed a question to the effect of ‘have you ever had a bomb on your plane?’ ” a statement from Montgomery’s office said.

Nichols’ comment prompted Southwest Airlines personnel to immediately notify authorities and the potential threat stopped operations at Sky Harbor Airport for 2 ½ hours while Phoenix police searched for him and determined there was no bomb, records state.

Nichols, a retired Navy veteran living in Temecula, Calif., was suspected of being under the influence at the time of the incident. 

According to Montgomery’s office, Nichols denied making comments about a bomb and no other witnesses heard him. An initial investigation by police indicated that the comment was witnessed by other Southwest employees.

Arizona law says a felony hoax offense includes actions that are likely to give the false impression that some act of terrorism is or will take place and would be expected to cause an emergency response by a government agency.

It wasn’t clear if police would take the case to municipal court. Phoenix police representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Airlines estimated losses in the millions of dollars in delays. 


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