Passengers and crew restrained a Yemeni man after he pounded on a plane’s cockpit door as it neared San Francisco in one of three security incidents on US planes in a single day, officials said.
Authorities on Monday did not characterize any of the incidents as terror-related, but they unfolded at a time of heightened concern following the killing of Osama bin Laden in a US raid in Pakistan.
The 28-year-old Yemeni aboard an American Airlines flight, identified as Rageh al-Murisi, got up from his economy class seat shortly before the plane was due to land late on Sunday and banged on the cockpit door violently.
A flight attendant, thinking he was looking for the restroom, pointed out the correct door, at which point Murisi “lowered his left shoulder and rammed the cockpit door,” according to the official complaint.
A flight attendant then tackled Murisi, a Valejo, California, resident.
“He began to resist, so the flight attendant called for help,” San Francisco police Sergeant Michael Rodriguez said.
“Another flight attendant, a pilot who was a passenger on the plane and a couple of other passengers helped get Mr al-Murisi away from the cockpit door onto the ground, where they put him in flexible handcuffs,” he added.
The Boeing 737 landed safely with its 162 passengers and six crew unhurt, and Murisi was taken into custody after getting checked at a local hospital for abrasions he sustained during the scuffle.
He is being held for interfering with a flight crew, a federal charge. The FBI, San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and San Francisco police interviewed Murisi, who was scheduled to be arraigned yesterday with an Arabic interpreter present.
FBI spokeswoman Julianne Sohn said the incident was “still under investigation” and authorities had not yet determined whether it was terror-related.
Earlier on Sunday, a Continental Airlines flight from Houston to Chicago landed safely in St Louis after a 34-year-old Illinois man tried to open a door on the plane mid-flight.
The federal attorney’s office later identified the man as Reynel Alcaide, 34, and said he had been charged with “crimes involving aircraft” and “interference with flight crew members and attendants.”
The incident “does not appear to be related to terrorism,” the FBI said after questioning Alcaide.
On the same morning, Delta Air Lines flight 1706 from Detroit to San Diego was diverted to Albuquerque, New Mexico, without incident due to an unspecified security scare.
FBI spokesman Frank Fisher and an airport spokesperson declined to provide details, but said authorities searched the plane and interviewed crew and passengers but “no suspicious devices were found” and no arrests made.