A man on a plane from Los Angeles to Boston tried to stab a flight attendant in the neck with a broken spoon after trying to open a door in the air, federal prosecutors said Monday.
The incident took place Sunday night less than an hour before the United Airlines flight landed, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts.
Francisco Severo Torres, a 33-year-old from Leominster, Massachusetts, was tackled by passengers and restrained before the flight landed in Boston, where Torres was arrested, prosecutors said.
They said Torres appeared in federal court Monday and was held ahead of a hearing Thursday. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney who could speak to his arrest.
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No one on board Flight 2609 was seriously hurt, a United Airlines representative told NBC10 Boston in a statement, saying the customer "was restrained after becoming a security concern" by the plane's crew and other customers.
"We have zero tolerance for any type of violence on our flights, and this customer will be banned from flying on United pending an investigation. We are cooperating with law enforcement in their investigation," their statement said.
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The incident began about 45 minutes before the plane was scheduled to land at Logan International Airport, prosecutors said, when an alarm went off in the cockpit that a door between first class and coach was disarmed, and a flight attendant found that the door's handle was moved about a one-fourth of the way to being unlocked.
The door was secured and the captain was notified, then another flight attendant reported seeing Torres near the door, saying they believed he'd tampered with it, according to prosecutors. When a flight attendant confronted the passenger about what happened, he allegedly asked if cameras caught him doing it, and the plane's employee urged the captain to land the plane as soon as possible, as Torres represented a threat to the plane.
Soon after that, Torres approached two flight attendants standing in the aisle near the door and lunged at one of them with a broken metal spoon, hitting them around the neck three times, prosecutors said. That's when the passengers and crew tackled Torres.
Later, other passengers on the plane told investigators that, during a safety briefing, Torres had asked someone to show him on one of the seatback safety cards where to find an emergency door handle. They also reported seeing Torres pacing before the attack with the broken spoon, prosecutors said.
If convicted, Torres faces up to life in prison, according to prosecutors.
It's the second incident involving United planes at Logan airport in two days — on Monday morning, a United plane pushing back from a gate in Boston clipped another one. There is no indication the incidents are related.
In 2021, Torres had a lawsuit against the state-run Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital dismissed in Massachusetts' federal court — the same one where charges are being brought against him in the in-flight incident.
In that lawsuit, Torres, representing himself, claimed that severe spinal pain stemming from a car accident in 2014 was misdiagnosed as a mental disorder. Saying he was "the world's greatest Artist of all time," Torres sought $50 billion and a license to carry both firearms and explosives for personal protection; the case was dismissed because it was, as a state matter, not applicable to the federal jurisdiction.