LAS VEGAS (AP) — A courtroom outburst by a man accused of telephoning threats to “shoot up” a Southern Nevada synagogue prompted a judge to increase his bail on Wednesday, despite the man’s father’s account that his son is a military veteran with “a mental issue” resulting from head injuries.
Michael Sanchez, 37, blurted out a complaint about “false information being presented on both sides about my issues” before Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Amy Chelini told him she was increasing his bail amount from $20,000 to $100,000.
“Those are alleged threats,” Sanchez said of accounts of his actions, prompting prosecutor Max Anderson to note for the judge that Sanchez appeared to admit guilt.
Sanchez faces a felony charge of threatening an act of terrorism. He was not asked to enter a plea, pending a preliminary hearing of evidence scheduled Feb. 15.
Chelini also ruled that if Sanchez can post bail for release from jail, he must be on high-level electronic monitoring.
The judge told Sanchez her decisions were "based upon this conduct here today and how you’re acting now to this court, to your attorneys, in the courtroom and the violent nature of the tone of your voice."
Sanchez was arrested Sunday, after police said he called the Chabad of Southern Nevada, told a rabbi that congregants were child molesters who deserved to die, and referred to a shooting in April 2019 at Chabad of Poway, California, that killed a 60-year-old woman and wounded three others, including a rabbi and an 8-year-old girl.
Police said that following his arrest, Sanchez “admitted he made the call and did threaten to shoot up the synagogue,” and said he believed Jews and police were “out to get him.” Police also noted that Sanchez showed signs of paranoia.
In court, Anderson said allegations that Sanchez also threatened another Las Vegas-area synagogue were being investigated. The prosecutor did not provide details.
Sanchez’s verbal protest came after his father, also named Michael Sanchez, told the judge his son “may be a little crazy, but he’s not dangerous.”
“He’s never carried out anything to anybody,” the elder Sanchez said. “He just talks.”
Outside court, father Michael Sanchez of Hemet, California, said his son took part in heavy fighting in Iraq during two combat tours as a U.S. Army artillery officer before he was honorably discharged at the rank of sergeant.
“He’s a veteran and he’s got a mental issue,” the father said, attributing his son’s mood swings to a head injury received after returning to the U.S. and a diagnosed brain aneurysm. “They’ve held him at the Veterans Administration psych ward several times already," he said.
Separately, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said he believed Sanchez would pose an ongoing threat to the community if he were released from jail.
“I recognize there may be indications of a mental illness,” Wolfson told The Associated Press. “But I can’t take the chance of this person acting out, regardless of whether he’s mentally ill or not.”