An off-duty pilot has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder after he allegedly tried to shut off the engines by pulling the fire extinguisher handles on an Alaska Airlines flight, according to officials.
The plane was scheduled to fly from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco before it diverted late Sunday to Portland after a “credible security threat related to an authorized occupant in the flight deck jump seat,” the airline confirmed to ABC News.
The suspect allegedly tried to pull the fire extinguisher handles on the engines. The suspect was overwhelmed by flight crew. He was subdued and then handcuffed to a seat.
The suspect, Joseph David Emerson, was taken into custody, the Port of Portland confirmed. Emerson is charged with 83 counts of attempted murder, according to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
He is also facing 83 counts of reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, and one felony count of endangering an aircraft.
‘I’m not OK’
Alaska Airlines said the off-duty pilot was sitting in the flight deck jump seat – which is in the cockpit – and “unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt the operation of the engines.”
Emerson engaged with the pilots in “casual conversation” before allegedly trying “to grab and pull two red fire handles that would have activated the plane’s emergency fire suppression system and cut off fuel to its engines,” prosecutors said.
He allegedly said, “I’m not OK,” and reached up to grab the red fire handles.
The captain and first officer “quickly responded,” Alaska said, adding engine power was not lost and the crew secured the aircraft without incident.
But Emerson was “unable” to pull the red T-handles down all the way and fully activate the engine shutoff because of the pilots “wrestling with Emerson,” the complaint said.
From the time Emerson said, “I’m not OK” to when he exited the cockpit was about 90 seconds.
The fire suppression system on the plane consists of a T-valve handle for each engine. If those handles are fully deployed, a valve in the wing closes to shut off fuel to the engine.
Emerson allegedly told one flight attendant that “he just got kicked out of the flight deck” and “you need to cuff me right now or it’s going to be bad,”
‘I just want to wake up’
According to the complaint, he allegedly said, “I pulled both emergency shut-off handles because I thought I was dreaming and I just wanna wake up.”
Stunning new details emerged Tuesday, October 24, 2023.
It is now emerging that Emerson, had not slept for 40 hours and had discussed using psychedelic mushrooms
Emerson also stated he became depressed about six months ago, according to the complaint.
He allegedly told officers he consumed the psychedelic mushrooms 48 hours before the incident. He also added that he struggled with depression for six years and that a friend passed away recently.
The FBI is investigating when exactly he allegedly took the mushrooms. They’re trying to figure out whether this was a psychedelic trip, a mental health crisis or something else.
83 counts of attempted murder
There were 80 passengers and four crew members on the flight.
Passenger Aubrey Gavello told ABC News, “We didn’t know anything was happening until the flight attendant got on the loudspeaker and made an announcement that there was an emergency situation and the plane needed to land immediately. About 15 minutes later, she got back on and said that there was a medical emergency.”
Passenger Alex Wood said the pilot announced that “there was a disturbance in the cockpit.”
Once the plane landed, Wood said police went to the back of the plane. They then escorted a handcuffed man off the plane. He noted that the suspect “was wearing a lanyard, a sweater. Looked like an airline employee.”
Gavello said, “After we did land and the gentleman was escorted off. The flight attendant got back on the speaker and said, plain and simple, ‘He had a mental breakdown. We needed to get him off the plane immediately.'”