Boston

Man accused of violent attack on flight to Boston facing new charge, possible life sentence

If convicted, Francisco Severo Torres could face life in prison

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The man accused of a violent outburst on a Boston-bound flight in March in which he tried to open a plane door and stab a flight attendant in the neck has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Francisco Severo Torres, 33, of Leominster, Massachusetts, was indicted on one count of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

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According to court documents, Torres was a passenger aboard a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Boston, when about 45 minutes before landing, the flight crew received an alarm in the cockpit that a starboard side door located between the first class and coach sections of the plane had been disarmed. Upon inspection, a flight attendant found that the door's locking handle had been moved out of the fully locked position and that the emergency slide arming lever had been moved to the disarmed position. The flight attendant secured the door and emergency slide and then reported it to the captain.

In subsequent discussions, another flight attendant said he had seen Torres near the door and believed he had tampered with it. A flight attendant then confronted Torres about tampering with the door, and he replied by asking if there were cameras showing that he had done it. Based on that interaction, the flight attendant told the captain they believed Torres posed a threat to the aircraft and that the captain needed to land the aircraft as soon as possible.

Shortly afterward, prosecutors said Torres got out of his seat and approached the starboard side door, where two flight attendants were standing in the aisle. One of them saw Torres mouthing something that he could not hear. Video taken by a passenger showed Torres yelling at points that he would "kill every man on this plane" and "I'm taking over this plane." He then allegedly thrust toward one of the flight attendants in a stabbing motion with a broken metal spoon, striking the flight attendant three times in the neck. Passengers then tackled Torres and he was restrained with help from the flight crew.

Torres was immediately taken into custody when the flight landed in Boston.

Jeff Neil was sitting in the row right behind Francisco Torres on the Los Angeles to Boston flight Sunday night.

During subsequent interviews, prosecutors said passengers who were aboard the flight reported that Torres asked a fellow passenger where on the safety card it showed where the door handle was located during the flight attendant's safety briefing prior to takeoff, and that Torres was seen pacing in a galley before attacking the flight attendant.

Passenger Lisa Olsen, who captured video of Torres shouting threatening language, recalled that he "was saying that he was Balthazar, that his father was Dracula, he was going to kill all the men on the plane. There was going to be a blood bath. He was asking where Homeland Security was.”

Prosecutors said the charge of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members and attendants using a dangerous weapon provides for a sentence of up to life in prison, up to five years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.

Torres had initially been charged following his arrest on March 5 at Boston Logan International Airport.

Prosecutors said 33-year-old Francisco Severo Torres has a history of violence and mental health issues, including a recent one at a barbershop in Leominster.

During a hearing in July, a federal judge found that he was not competent to stand trial. He was ordered hospitalized for up to four months to determine if he would eventually have the capacity for the case to forward.

Torres "is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense," Judge Judith Gail Dein wrote in her order, citing a forensic examination, statements from lawyers and how Torres acted at the competency hearing.

Torres has a history of mental health issues, including making threats to his mother, prosecutor Elianna Nuzum said in court, asking for the mental health evaluation. He also used similar rhetoric to what passengers heard at a Leominster barber shop a few weeks before the flight, prompting police to respond.

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