FLORENCE — The Pinal County Attorney’s Office has dropped charges against a man who claimed he had a bomb in his car parked outside the federal immigration detention center in Florence.
According to Pinal County Superior Court records, Patrick M. Gerola, 56, was originally charged with committing a hoax.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement supervisor called Florence Police the morning of Dec. 31 to report a suspicious man, later identified as Gerola, in a vehicle, honking the horn and making bomb threats in the parking lot of the ICE facility on Pinal Parkway.
A section of Pinal Parkway was closed for about six and a half hours while law enforcement agencies negotiated with Gerola. He eventually surrendered and was taken into custody.
However, after the charges were filed, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office asked a Superior Court judge to dismiss the case, which the judge did.
Trevor Smith, the public information officer for the County Attorney’s Office, said that when a supervisor at the office reviewed the charges they found that the state statute detailing the crime had been repealed in 2017 after the definition of terrorism was narrowed.
“Since there was never a bomb and there wasn’t a political movement or other reason for the threat that would constitute terrorism and his parking near the ICE detention center was incidental, we decided not to file felony charges in this matter,” Smith stated in an email.
“We dismissed the inappropriate count and released Gerola to enroll in mental health and drug treatment programs. It is our belief that Mr. Gerola was suffering from a severe mental health crisis at that time and a felony charge and possible prison time wouldn’t be as effective as helping him receive treatment for his ongoing issues.”