Casino customer's threat 'to blow this place down' sounds serious
It was a late Saturday night in May at the Mandalay Bay, and the casino floor was the usual carnival of gambling and boozy voices.
The large man of Middle Eastern descent took a seat next to the buxom woman in the low-cut blouse. Between deals, he made sexual suggestions.
Three seats away, the woman's husband spoke up.
"She's married," he said.
Veteran dealer Gary Bates calmly intervened. "Is she married to you?" he asked.
She was, indeed, and with that the dealer said to the new player, "You're going to have to curtail your dialogue."
Floor supervisor Dan Welch stepped close to the game.
"What did I do wrong?" the disgruntled player asked, according to one source. "Something I said? In my country, women should not be seen in public without a burqa or a veil."
The husband snarled, "Then why don't you go back to your (expletive) country?"
Welch then ushered the man up from the table and said, "Maybe you need to go play at another game."
When he did, the man, identified as Iran-born Canadian citizen Reza Nazarinia, had something else to say.
"You don't know who I am," he said, according to one source. "I'm from the Middle East. When I come back, I'm going to blow this place down."
Employees and customers within earshot were stunned.
As Nazarinia moved across the casino, Welch immediately contacted swing-shift supervisor Kenny DeGruy, who followed up with casino manager Danny Ewing. Nazarinia sat down at dealer Laura Tell's table.
The belligerence continued. So did the threats.
"When Nazarinia would lose a hand of blackjack, he would become violent and punch the gaming table," the Las Vegas police arrest report written by Detective Richard Umberger states. "Tell became fearful for herself and the other customers' safety. She asked Nazarinia to calm down and watch his language. He replied, 'Go (expletive) yourself.' Tell stated that Nazarinia then stated he could bring the entire hotel down. Tell states that Nazarinia indicated to her that he knew how to do it, too."
In a few minutes, a team of Mandalay security personnel took Nazarinia off the game and into custody until Las Vegas police and the FBI arrived.
Although police said they smelled alcohol on his breath, Nazarinia assured them he wasn't drunk. He also wasn't fully cooperative. When asked for his side of the story, he scoffed at officials.
There are as many as five witnesses to his threats, according to multiple sources, but, contrary to the casino rumor mill, he wasn't sent to a terrorist detention facility.
Nazarinia was arrested on charges of making threats or conveying false information concerning an act of terrorism and making a bomb threat. He was booked on May 19 at the Clark County Detention Center. I am informed he later returned to Canada.
Was he just another boozy lout made loose-lipped by a night on the Strip, or was he a terrorist associate who had inadvertently exposed his true feelings?
Law enforcement experts who checked his background while he was in their custody must have believed he was suitable to release. But in light of the many recent events involving terrorist violence and uncovered bombing plots at Fort Dix and Kennedy Airport, the fact Nazarinia might not be affiliated with a terrorist organization doesn't make his statements any less unnerving to the employees and customers who overheard him.
Only days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, we learned that key members of the al-Qaida terrorist cell twice visited Las Vegas. Some law enforcement personnel have argued that suspected terrorists have scouted the Strip as a possible target.
In the Luxor parking garage recently, a man was murdered by a bomb placed on top of his car. Although the incident was not terrorism-related, I'll bet that was almost everyone's first impression.
Thoughts of a possible terrorist event, no matter how remote, are never far from the minds of most Americans.
That's what makes Nazarinia's actions so disturbing, and why he should be prosecuted thoroughly.
That kind of talk, right in the heart of our tourism corridor, is arguably more egregious than shouting "fire" in a crowded theater and worse than joking at an airport about hijacking a commercial jet liner.
The investigative question is whether Reza Nazarinia has the contacts and capability to make good on his threat.
But threatening terrorism is a form of terrorism, and the jerk should pay a heavy price.
John L. Smith's column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.