A 78-year-old South Carolina man with more than a dozen weapons in his home has been arrested after federal authorities say he told a nurse he wanted to kill President Barack Obama.
But the man's son said Friday his father only spoke out as a cry for help for mental instability.
Michael Stephen Bowden was being held at the Spartanburg County jail. Bowden was arrested Nov. 18 after he told a nurse at a Veterans Affairs clinic in Spartanburg he was thinking of killing the president, according to a sworn statement by a U.S. Secret Service agent.
During a checkup at the clinic Nov. 16, a nurse asked Bowden if he ever thought about killing himself. According to the affidavit, Bowden told the nurse, "Yes, I would like to shoot the president, then myself."
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Bowden repeated those words to another nurse, adding that he wanted to kill Obama "because he is not doing enough to help African Americans."
The next day, federal agents searched the home that Bowden, who is white, shares with his wife and adult son, finding three semiautomatic handguns and a semiautomatic rifle under Bowden's bed. Agents also found 13 other guns throughout the home, including a loaded shotgun near the front door.
When asked about his comments to the nurses, Bowden acknowledged he made them and also gave agents a sworn, written statement, saying "if I had the opportunity to put Obama against the wall and shoot him, I would."
Bowden also exhibited suicidal tendencies during a screening in April, according to the statement.
Bowden's son, reached at the family's home Friday, said his father only told the nurse about the threats as a way to get attention after his April suicidal screening had gone unnoticed.
"They did nothing for him," said Kerry Bowden, 47, adding that medication his father has taken since a heart attack in the 1970s could be the source of his irrationality. "I think he was afraid something was going to happen, so he acted out and made the statements he said to get the medical treatment. They dropped the ball."
There was no answer at the clinic Bowden's father visited, and a Veterans Affairs official did not immediately return a message.
Kerry Bowden, who said that he works as a defense contractor training law enforcement officials, said that all but two of the guns recovered from the home belong to him.
"This should never have been a law enforcement issue," Bowden said. "He's going to miss his birthday. He missed Thanksgiving. He's going to miss Christmas, all because these nurses were either incompetent, not trained or they just didn't care."
After four years in the U.S. Navy, Kerry Bowden said his father served with the New York City police and fire departments for more than 15 years before retiring to South Carolina following a heart attack in 1975. Neither department on Friday said they could find records showing that Bowden had ever worked there.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin McDonald has ordered that Bowden be held without bond until a mental evaluation had been completed. An attorney for Bowden did not immediately respond to a message Friday.