An air traffic controller from Tempe remained in custody Wednesday in connection with a raid by federal agents on his home that yielded a pipe bomb, several assault rifles and other firearms.
Laro Nicol, 40, appeared Tuesday before U.S. District Court Judge David Duncan in Phoenix, who set a preliminary hearing for 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Nicol was arrested Tuesday by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on suspicion of possessing a destructive device and also unlawfully possessing at least seven firearms because he is an illegal drug user, court records state.
Friends and relatives on Tuesday said Nicol is involved in the police watchdog group Phoenix Copwatch and other political movements.
Patrick Schneider, a U.S. attorney spokesman, said that while Nicol’s profession as a Goodyear Airport traffic controller "leads to concern," he was arrested solely on charges of possessing illegal items.
Nicol’s political beliefs also did not factor in his arrest, Schneider added.
"That’s pretty immaterial to the charges," he said. "The charges are based on the nature of the destructive devices."
The ATF’s investigation was based on statements from an informant, according to court records.
The informant told agents that two pipe bombs were obtained from Nicol through a third party on Feb. 22. The informant met with Nicol on Feb. 25 at his Tempe home. The informant saw another explosive device in Nicol’s workshop, along with the components to make more bombs, and instruction books, time fuses, assault rifles and gun powder, records stated.
Agents served a search warrant Tuesday and raided Nicol’s home at 2126 E. Palmcroft Drive. The raid yielded materials believed to be used to make explosives; suspected marijuana, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia; and several rifles and assault rifles, records stated.
Agents also seized ammunition and three pieces of paper with "e-mail and reference to killing federal agents," records stated.