Francisco Severo Torres, the Massachusetts man accused of attacking a United Airlines flight attendant after trying to open an emergency exit door aboard a flight to Boston, is set to make a federal court appearance Thursday afternoon.
Torres, a 33-year-old Leominster native, is scheduled to be in front of a judge at 2 p.m. He is charged with one count of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Viral video captured by Lisa Olsen shows Torres shouting while standing above his seat, before taking off into the plane’s aisle and attacking a stewardess with a broken metal spoon. Federal investigators say Torres hit the flight attendant on the neck area three times.
“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.
ATTEMPTED STABBING ON BOSTON-BOUND FLIGHT ENDED ‘IN SECONDS’ DUE TO PASSENGER INTERVENTION
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.”
UNITED PASSENGERS TACKLE MAN WHO ALLEGEDLY TRIED TO OPEN EMERGENCY EXIT DOOR, STABBED FLIGHT ATTENDANT MID-AIR
During the final 45 minutes of the flight, crew members were alerted that a door between the first class and coach sections of the aircraft was disarmed.
When flight attendants inspected the door, they discovered the locking handle was moved out of the fully locked position and moved nearly a quarter of the way toward the unlocked position. The emergency slide arming lever was also moved to the “disarmed” position, the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release read.
A flight attendant reported that he believed Torres tampered with the door after seeing him near the door moments before.
When a flight attendant asked Torres about the door, he asked if cameras could prove he had tampered with the door.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said court documents show the flight attendant told the captain they believed Torres was a threat to the aircraft and the plane needed to be landed as soon as possible.
“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,” a spokesperson for United Airlines said in a statement on Monday. “The flight landed safely and was met by law enforcement. No serious injuries were reported.”
The spokesperson said the airline has zero tolerance for violence on its flights, and Torres will be banned from flying on United, pending an investigation.
A preliminary investigation involving interviews with passengers on board the flight found that Torres allegedly asked another passenger where on the safety card it showed where the door handle was located. Passengers also told investigators Torres was pacing back and forth in a galley before attacking the flight attendant.
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If convicted, Torres could face up to life in prison, up to five years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.
Fox Business’ Greg Wehner and the Associated Press contributed to this report.