Video: Man threatens to kill passengers on US flight, attacks crew with broken spoon
A passenger on a United Airlines flight threatened to “kill every man” on the plane before allegedly attacking a flight attendant with a broken metal spoon, a video circulating on social media showed.
In the footage, the angry passenger, identified as 33-year-old Francisco Severo Torres, yelled from his seat during a flight from Los Angeles to Boston over the weekend then stood up, walked toward the crew members and appeared to lunge at a member of the cabin crew.
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The incident began when Torres tried to open an emergency exit door during the flight, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts said.
Around 45 minutes into the flight, crew members were alerted that the “starboard side door” had been disarmed. A flight attendant then inspected the door and noticed that the handle had been moved, leaving the door in an unlocked position.
Airplane doors cannot be opened once in flight due to cabin pressure.
The flight attendant secured the handle and informed other crew members about the incident.
Torres had been by the door, federal officials said, according to NBC News, and “confronted Torres about tampering with the door, to which he allegedly responded by asking if there were cameras showing that he had done so.”
The 33-year-old then approached the same door, which was being guarded by two crew members, and allegedly thrusted at one in a “stabbing motion” with a “broken metal spoon,” the prosecutor’s office said.
One of the flight attendants was hit in the neck three times, according to news reports.
According to a criminal complaint, Torres allegedly said that he “believed the flight attendant was trying to kill him” so he “was trying to kill the attendant first.”
Investigators said Torres admitted knowing that if he opened the door many people would die.
Torres was arrested when the plane arrived in Boston and charged with interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon, federal prosecutors said.
The man has been charged with a count of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon. He is scheduled to appear in federal court on Thursday and, if convicted, he is facing a maximum sentence of life in prison.
A passenger who helped restrain a threatening man on the flight said Tuesday that the entire chaotic episode was over within seconds thanks to teamwork.
Simik Ghookasian said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press that he was seated several rows behind the man.
“I heard the guy getting louder and louder and I thought it was just an argument, but he started yelling and screaming and threatening people, threatening to kill them,” said Ghookasian, a Los Angeles government contractor flying to Boston on United Flight 2609 on Sunday for work.
Until the yelling, he hadn't noticed anything unusual about Torres.
Ghookasian said he saw the spoon and he was among five or six passengers who piled onto Torres and removed it from his grasp. It turned out to be the handle of a metal spoon, from which the bowl portion had been broken off, authorities said.
“That guy was really strong and was really resisting,” Ghookasian said. “We had a hard time holding him down. It was total teamwork.”
Ghookasian asked a flight attendant for some zip ties or duct tape, and the flight attendant produced some zip ties.
Ghookasian, who said he has first aid and counter-terrorism training, said he didn't have time to be scared, he just reacted and used his instincts.
“Everything just exploded in a few seconds,” he said.
United Airlines said no one was injured.
“Thanks to the quick action of our crew and customers, one customer was restrained after becoming a security concern on United flight 2609 from Los Angeles to Boston,” the company statement said. “The flight landed safely and was met by law enforcement.”
If convicted of the charges against him, Torres could face life in prison.
An email seeking comment from him was sent to his federal public defender, and a voicemail was left.
Torres has previously sued two mental health facilities where he was a patient, according to federal court records. He sued the state-run Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital in March 2021, alleging medical malpractice for misdiagnosis. That suit was dismissed several months later.
He also sued Fuller Hospital in Attleboro, Massachusetts last May, alleging his constitutional rights were violated because he was a vegan and was denied almond milk. The suit was dismissed in June.
In both cases, he acted as his own attorney.
With the Associated Press
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