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Man charged with attempting to stab flight attendant faces judge


BOSTON (AP) — The man charged last weekend with attempting to open an airplane’s emergency door on a cross-country flight and stabbing a flight attendant in the neck with a broken metal spoon is going to court Thursday to find out if he will be granted bail.

Francisco Severo Torres, 33, of Leominster, Massachusetts, was arrested Sunday when United Flight 2609 from Los Angeles landed in Boston. He is charged with a felony related to obstructing flight crew members using a dangerous weapon. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

A detention hearing is scheduled for US District Court in Boston.

The plane was about 45 minutes from Boston when the crew received an alarm that a side door of the plane had been disabled, according to court documents. A flight attendant noticed that the door’s locking handle had moved. Another flight attendant had noticed that Torres had been seen at the door and thought he had moved the handle.

In-flight cabin pressure prevents aircraft doors from opening.

The crew told the captain that Torres posed a threat and that the plane should land as soon as possible, authorities said.

In video made by a passengeran agitated Torres can be heard threatening to kill people and promising a massacre.

“I will kill every man on this plane,” he says.

He also asks where the pilots diverted the plane.

“Because wherever it is, there will be carnage everywhere,” he says in the video.

Torres then approached two flight attendants, according to court documents. One of the flight attendants felt the metal spoon in Torres’s hand hit him three times against the collar of his shirt and tie.

Torres was subdued by several passengers and restrained until the aircraft landed.

“Everything just exploded in a few seconds,” said Simik Ghookasian, one of the passengers who helped restrain the suspect.

Torres told investigators he entered the plane’s bathroom and broke a spoon in half to make a weapon, prosecutors said in court documents. They said Torres told authorities he wanted to open the door so he could jump out, and that he knew opening the door would kill a lot of people.

United Airlines said no one was injured.

Messages requesting comment were left with his federal public defender.

Torres has struggled with mental health issues in the past, according to federal court documents and a local police chief who says officers have treated him several times since 2014. Sometimes neighbors called the police after seeing him scantily dressed outside his home.

He was charged in 2017 for a domestic incident involving his mother, but those charges were dropped, Leominster Police Chief Aaron Kennedy told The Associated Press.

Kennedy said that on Feb. 26, police were called to a barber shop in town where Torres said something of “the same rhetoric you heard on the plane.” But it wasn’t until police saw video of the flight last weekend that they realized it was the same person.


Associated Press Michael Casey in Boston contributed to this report.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.