Passengers on a San Francisco-bound flight from Chicago got a real scare Sunday night when a passenger began pounding on the cockpit door.
Rageh Almurisi, 28, from Vallejo got up from his seat and went toward the cockpit 10 minutes before the flight from Chicago was supposed to land Sunday night. Fellow passengers said he was yelling something in Arabic as he brushed past a flight attendant on his way toward the cockpit.
The criminal complaint, which was filed Monday, said that the flight attendant first thought the man was looking for the bathroom, but after two attempts to redirect the passenger to the correct door it became clear he knew what he was doing. The flight attendant said Almurisi made eye contact with him and then lowered his left shoulder and rammed the cockpit door. The complaint said the flight attendant was then able to get between the man and the door. He then called for help, which came in the form of two passengers. One was a retired Secret Service agent and the other a retired San Mateo police officer who happen to be on the plane. The group put Almurisi in plastic handcuffs while he was still on the plane and as soon as the flight landing safely at SFO was arrested and spent the night in the San Mateo County jail.
The criminal complaint explains what happened step by step and can be read at this link.
By midday Monday, federal agents had taken over the case and are investigating Almurisi's background.
His first court appearance is set for Tuesday morning in San Francisco at 9:30 a.m.
So far, authorities said he has no known ties to terrorism, and they do not know what motivated him to act. San Francisco police Sgt. Michael Rodriguez said Almurisi was carrying a Yemeni passport Sunday night.
The Associated Press notes that the incident comes amid concerns that extremists will try to mount attacks in retaliation for American commandos killing al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last week. Yemen, a nation at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula, has been a focus of U.S. officials because one of the most active branches of al-Qaeda operates in the remote part of the country.
There were two other mid-air disturbances this past weekend.
A 34-year-old man from Illinois tried to open a plane door on a Continental Airlines flight from Houston to Chicago. Investigators questioned him, but did not file charges.
There was also a security scare about a Delta Air Lines flight from Detroit to San Diego, prompting it to land in Albuquerque, N.M., but authorities found "no suspicious devices,'" authorities said.
No one was arrested.