LUBBOCK, Texas – A Las Vegas man pleaded guilty on Friday to interfering with a flight crew while en route from Ontario, California to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Jerry Ba Nguyen, 24, was on American Airlines flight 2542 on September 22, 2016, when the flight had to be diverted to Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport due to Nguyen’s behavior. According to the U.S. Department of Justice Nguyen interfered and attempted to interfere with the performance of the duties of a flight crew member and flight attendant, lessening their ability to perform their duties, by assaulting and intimidating the flight attendant and flight crew member by refusing to comply with instructions from flight attendants.
Flight attendants noticed Nguyen’s peculiar behavior as the plan was leaving the gate of the Ontario Airport when he appeared to be agitated and walked toward the front of the plane as it prepared for take off. The flight attendants calmed Nguyen down and the plane departed. When the plane took off, Nguyen’s behavior again became erratic mumbling that the SIM card had been stolen from his phone. He also made suicidal statements according to witnesses reports. He stated that the police were not his friends, and the U.S. government was responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The flight crew asked Nguyen to remain in his seat multiple times, but he failed to comply. “Flight attendants were so concerned about his behavior that they recruited several passengers to assist with physically restraining Nguyen if it became necessary,”U.S. Department of Justice officials said. Nguyen walked to the front of the plane, near the cockpit door. Again, they instructed Nguyen numerous times to be seated for landing, but he again refused. Passengers made contact with Nguyen due to his proximity to the cockpit door. The Captain declared an emergency and the flight was diverted to Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport, where it landed safely and Nguyen was taken into custody.
When sentenced at an undetermined later date, Nguyen will face up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
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