KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The man charged with assaulting the crew and threatening to “bring down” a commercial flight near Kansas City Sunday will get a psychiatric evaluation, a court official said Thursday.
A detention hearing scheduled Thursday for 50-year-old Californian Juan Remberto Rivas was postponed pending the examination requested by his federal public defender, according to Don Ledford, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
American Airlines flight 1775 from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. made an emergency landing in Kansas City Sunday after Rivas allegedly attempted to enter the cockpit and open an emergency exit. According to passengers, Rivas said he wanted to “bring down the plane.”
Rivas is charged with one felony count of assaulting and intimidating a flight attendant, thereby interfering in the performance of the flight attendant’s duties. Notably, he is not charged with terrorism.
Flight attendants reported to the FBI that Rivas had been extremely paranoid during the flight, saying he was concerned he was being followed and someone was trying to hurt him. He asked at one point to be moved to first class to avoid another passenger he thought would cause him injury.
Rivas made several trips to the front of the plane and went into the flight attendant’s work area. According to witnesses, he tried to use plastic forks as weapons, break a champagne bottle over a counter and corner the flight attendants with the service cart. Flight attendants said Rivas had not been served any alcohol on the flight, which was already two and a half hours in progress.
During the scuffle with flight attendants, Rivas attempted to enter the cockpit. He was subdued by flight attendants as well as several passengers, some of whom were police officers.
“One of the flight attendants jumps all the way to the back and grabs a coffee pot and walks up to the front,” passenger Mouaz Moustafa told FOX4KC. “There’s a man who’s trying to get into the cockpit, and afterwards, also tried to open the door to get out the plane. So, some of the passengers that were very heroic, helped the flight attendant who went to the back and got the coffee pot, came up and kept, sort of, bashing him in the head.”
Moustafa said the plane descended 5,000 feet a minute, and many passengers thought they were crashing. A typical flight descends at 600 feet a minute
After the emergency landing at around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Rivas was taken into custody and the passengers were interviewed by the FBI. The maximum sentence for the felony charge is 20 years in prison.