Jeff Neil was sitting in the United Airlines row right behind Francisco Torres, the man accused of a violent outburst on a Boston-bound flight last weekend.
Neil says after Torres was confronted by a flight attendant about attempting to open the plane's emergency exit, Torres started making threats as several passengers tried to calm him down.
“A woman came down the aisle,” said Neil. “She so nicely was saying ‘sir you’re scaring us, would you please stop.’”
But Torres didn’t stop and continued to yell, Neil says.
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Video of the incident shows that as soon as Torres jumped into the aisle, Neil got up, as well.
“I wanted to be between him and my wife,” said Neil. “From there he backed away from me, eventually he charged the flight attendants.”
Neil didn’t see that Torres had a broken spoon, which the suspect is accused of using to stab a flight attendant.
Neil then took Torres down to the ground, and other passengers joined in to try and restrain the suspect by cuffing his hands and feet with zip ties.
“He was not going down easy,” said Neil.
Neil, a 52-year-old businessman from Exeter, New Hampshire, and former bouncer in Boston years ago, says the man’s ramblings during the entire incident were frightening.
“He was not afraid to say he wanted to kill everyone on the plane,” said Neil. “How he was going to come back after being killed by an air marshal, he was going to come back and haunt us and kill us all.”
Neil is humble about his actions on board.
“Maybe it takes one to lead the charge but I certainly wasn’t by myself,” said Neil. “There was a lot of people to help.”
In court Thursday, prosecutors said the 33-year-old suspect from Leominster, Massachusetts, has a history of violence and mental health issues, and just this week he allegedly punched a guard after he was taken to jail following the incident on the plane.
Torres was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation, to be followed by a competency hearing.