The American Airlines passenger who tried to open a plane door in midair told flight attendants that people were out to get him before he grabbed a plastic knife and attempted to break the neck of a champagne bottle, a federal complaint filed Monday alleges.
Juan Remberto Rivas’ paranoia-fueled fit came to an end when a flight attendant beaned him on the head with a coffee pot and other passengers wrestled him to the ground to tie him up, the document says.
“Hurry up and put a bullet in my head,” Rivas said when he was restrained, according to one witness.
Rivas is facing a charge of interference with a flight attendant and up to 20 years in prison for the Monday drama aboard Flight 1775, which was forced to make an emergency landing in Kansas City on its way from Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
Passengers interviewed by the FBI were split on whether Rivas made any threats to crash the plane. One said he heard the suspect say, “We’re going to bring down the plane.”
Rivas was calm during the first part of the flight. The trouble started when he went to the front of the jet and asked for the police, saying he did not trust anyone around him and wanted to moved to first class.
“Rivas stated people were attempting to hurt him and they followed him onto the plane. Rivas further stated he heard the individuals harming his family over the telephone,” the complaint says.
His seat was changed, but he then returned to the galley “and started saying that the plane was not moving and was not flying. Rivas was told it was moving and to look out the window,” the complaint states.
That's when, according to witnesses, Rivas grabbed a bottle from the galley counter and tried to break it and snatched a packet of utensils and stuck the knife up his sleeve—like a shank, one witness said.
Rivas allegedly tried to pull open the cockpit door and then began grabbing at the handle of the forward starboard aircraft door, hard enough to shift it in its frame several inches.
One witness “reported a flight attendant struck Rivas in the head with a metal coffee pot twice,” the complaint says. Another passenger “then punched Rivas in the jaw area” while yet another “grabbed the back of Rivas’ neck with both of his hands and pulled him to the floor.” An off-duty pilot on the flight showed up with duct tape, and zip ties were used to immobilize him.
One of the passengers said Rivas said he was on the way to see his children in Washington and that he seemed to be intoxicated, but flight attendants said he was not served alcohol on the plane.