The Yemeni man accused of trying to break in to a cockpit of a SFO-bound American Airlines flight Sunday made his first court appearance Tuesday at a San Francisco federal court.
The criminal complaint against Rageh al-Murisi, 28, claims he walked to the front of the plane just a few minutes before it was scheduled to land and rammed the cockpit door with his shoulder.
He is charged with interfering with flight crew members.
On Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elise Becker asked Judge James Larson to order al-Murisi to be held in custody without bail while he awaits his trial. al-Murisi's public defender, Elizabeth Falk, said she will ask for bail and will talk to her client's cousins in Vallejo to see if they can help. A decision on those requests is expected Friday.
In court, Becker called al-Murisi a "significant threat." He said evidence of that could be found in what al-Murisi was heard saying while he was trying to get in the cockpit. Witnesses said he yelled "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great." That is the same phrase the terrorists used on 9/11 has they brought down airplanes on 9/11.
Becker said al-Murisi had no luggage or carrying on bags for his trip from New York to San Francisco. He also said he was carrying two post-dated checks totaling $13,000 on the flight.
Some of al-Murisi's relatives from Vallejo were in court Tuesday. They said he was "a normal guy" and that they believe he had no intention of hurting anyone, adding the incident makes no sense to them.
The criminal complaint, which was filed Monday, said that a flight attendant first thought al-Murisi was looking for the bathroom, but after two attempts to redirect him to correct door it became clear he knew what he was doing. The flight attendant said al-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 al-Murisi in plastic handcuffs while he was still on the plane and as soon as the flight landed safely at SFO he was arrested. He spent Sunday night in the San Mateo County jail before being turned over the feds on Monday.
The criminal complaint explains what happened step by step and can be read at this link.