A Massachusetts man has been arrested and with trying to open an emergency exit door on an a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Boston and afterward trying to stab a flight attendant with a broken spoon.
According to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, 33-year-old Francisco Severo Torres has been charged with interference and attempted interference with flight crew members using a dangerous weapon. He was taken into custody when Flight 2609 landed in Boston Sunday night.
Charging documents say that an alarm went off about 45 minutes before landing, indicating that the right side emergency exit door between the first class and coach sections had been disarmed. A flight attendant found the door’s locking handle was out of the fully locked position and about a quarter of the way to the unlocked position and that the emergecy slide arming lever was in the disarmed position.
The flight attendant resecured the door and reported the incident to the flight crew.
As flight attendants discussed the issue, one of them reporting seeing Torres near the door. When a flight attendant asked Torres about tampering with the door, he asked if cameras had seen him doing so, the court documents say. At that point, the flight attendant notified the captain that they believed Torres was a threat and that the plane should be landed as soon as possible.
The documents say that a few minutes later, Torres got out of his seat and approached two flight attendants where were near standing in the aisle. He allegedly stabbed at one of them with what was later discovered to be a broken spoon. The flight attendant wasn’t injured.
Passengers immediately tackled him to the floor, and with the help of the flight attendants, he was secured and arrested when the plane touched down.
A recording of the cockpit’s communication with air traffic control in Boston reveals what happened, according to WCVB:
UNITED 2609: United 2609 … We are now an emergency aircraft.
ATC: United 2609, roger. Cockpit secure and did they try to breach?
UNITED 2609: Cockpit is secure. No attempted breach of the cockpit.
ATC: United 2609, roger. And you’re declaring an emergency?
UNITED 2609: Affirmative.
ATC: United 2609, what happened on board and is the person detained?
UNITED 2609: Person is detained attempted opening of external door, emergency door. That person was subdued and is being detained, however not going quietly he’s just laying there with six able bodies on top of him.
In interviews with investigators, passengers aboard the flight said that Torres, during the flight attendants briefing at the beginning of the flight, asked one passenger to show him where on the safety card showed the door handle. He was also seen pacing in a galley before attacking the flight attendant, the US Attorney’s Office said.
A video captured by a passenger on board the aircraft shows Torres in an unhinged outburst just before he attacked the flight attendant.
“So where’s the Homeland Security with the gun? Because I’m waiting for them to point the gun at me, so I can show everybody that I won’t die when I take every bullet in that clip to wherever in my body they shoot it, and then I will kill every man on this plane! So where are they?! … You don’t have Homeland Security. You’re not going to try and stop me? So you’re all cowards?” Torres said.
“I don’t care if I’m scaring you. I don’t care. I don’t care. The women will be fine. Sit back down,” Torres tells a flight attendant. “Why are you scared? … Well, tell them to bring SWAT to shoot me down because they’re going to have to shoot me down today. Remember that.
“Where are they diverting us? Because wherever it is, it’s going to be a blood bath everywhere,” he added. “You can run away. You can all run away if you want! If you’re men, you can run, I won’t kill you! … You can just put up your hands and say: ‘Don’t kill me.’ Or don’t approach me.”
At that point, he walks into the aisle and says, “Since I’m taking over this plane.”
A passenger on board the plane, Simik Ghookasian, told ABC News that the passengers held Torres down until the plane landed about 20 minutes later.
According to the criminal complaint:
“Torres told investigators he went into the bathroom on the plane and broke a spoon in half to make a weapon. When he came out of the bathroom Torres went into the galley, disarmed the door, and tried to open it unsuccessfully … Torres admitted to knowing that if he opened the door many people would die.”
He reportedly told police he went to the bathroom “to make a weapon” because he thought a flight attendant was trying to kill him, and he decided to strike first.
The US Attorney’s Office said that Torres faces up to life in prison, up to five years of supervised release, and fine of up to $250,000 if he is convicted.
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[Featured image: Simik Ghookasian]