Los Angeles Man Faces Charges After Attempt To Open Exit Door On Flight Forces Emergency Landing In Kansas City, Mo.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CNN/CBSLA) — A Los Angeles man was charged Monday after authorities say he was subdued by passengers and flight crew aboard an American Airlines flight that was forced to divert to Kansas City International Airport on Sunday.
"American Airlines flight 1775 with service from Los Angeles (LAX) to Washington, D.C. (DCA) diverted to Kansas City (MCI) due to an unruly passenger," the statement, provided to CNN, said.
"The flight landed safely at MCI at 2:28 p.m. local time, and law enforcement was requested to meet the flight on arrival," it added. "We're grateful to our crew members, who are consistently dedicated to the safety and care of our customers and who handled the circumstances with the utmost skill and professionalism."
Kansas City Aviation Department spokesperson Joe McBride told CNN there was a "passenger interfering with the flight crew," adding the incident will be under the jurisdiction of the FBI.
The FBI confirmed the incident in a statement to CNN, adding the individual in question had been taken into custody. He was later identified as 50-year-old Juan Remberto Rivas. He remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing.
"The flight was diverted due to an unruly passenger interfering with the flight crew," the FBI's statement said. "The individual has been taken into custody. No further information is available at this time."
The Federal Aviation Administration also confirmed to CNN that the flight's crew reported a passenger disturbance aboard the Airbus A321.
Mouaz Moustafa, a resident of Washington, DC, was aboard the flight and told CNN he saw a flight attendant yelling to another flight attendant to turn the lights on. The plane began rapidly descending, Moustafa said.
According to federal officials, Rivas created a disturbance that escalated when he walked up to the cockpit area. A flight attendant told federal agents he felt threatened when Rivas took plastic silverware and held it "like a shank." Rivas then grabbed a small champagne bottle by its neck and tried to break it on a counter, then kicked and shoved a service cart into one of the flight attendants, according to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint.
"Yesterday, we witnessed another dangerous, life-threatening incident on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., when a passenger attempted to open the forward passenger door," said Association of Professional Flight Attendants spokesperson Paul Hartshorn, Jr. "Flight attendants and passengers were able to subdue the threatening passenger, and the flight landed safely in Kansas City, Missouri."
Rivas, who was described as being 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, then grabbed the handles of an exit door and started pulling on hard on it, authorities said. A flight attendant used a coffee pot to hit him in the head in an attempt to stop Rivas, while several other passengers jumped up to help. One of the passengers, a police officer, struggled with Rivas and pulled him away from the door, another passenger punched him in the jaw, while a third passenger grabbed his neck and pulled him to the floor. They all worked together to restrain Rivas before his hands and feet could be secured with zip ties and duct tape, federal officials said.
"This violent behavior must stop," said National President of APFA Julie Hendrick. "APFA will continue to collaborate with other flight attendant and customer service agent unions, the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration and Congress to ensure these offenders are prosecuted to the full extent of the law with appropriate fines, criminal penalties, and applicable flying bans."
When the flight landed, police and the FBI came onboard, Moustafa said. Passengers were being rescheduled on another flight.
Rivas was treated for a laceration on his head.
Flight attendants told federal investigators they did not serve Rivas any alcohol during the flight.
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