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American Airlines passenger punches flight attendant, assaults police officers

An American Airlines flight was diverted on Wednesday after a passenger punched a flight attendant multiple times after drinking rum – and then claimed to not remember it afterward.

American Airlines flight 1497, which departed from Dallas Fort Worth Airport heading to Bozeman International Airport in Montana, declared a Level 2 threat for the physically abusive behavior by passenger Keith Edward Fagiana, 61. The incident forced the pilot to divert to Amarillo, Texas. 

The incident started mid-flight when a passenger told a flight attendant that Fagiana was “violently kicking their chair,” according to the criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the North District of Texas. 

The flight attendant asked Fagiana to stop kicking the chair in front of him and he “then yelled expletives at the flight attendant and punched the flight attendant in the stomach.” The flight attendant “took a defensive position” and Fagiana stood up and punched the flight attendant three more times, said the complaint, which cited an affidavit from the FBI agent investigating the case.  

Fagiana was physically restrained by the flight attendant and other passengers, put in flex cuff restraints and seated in an empty row. Another flight attendant reported the incident to the pilots in the cockpit.

Video taken by another passenger captured the confrontation with the flight attendant. “Stop, stop, stop. What the (expletive) are you doing?” the flight attendant yelled at a man hitting him.

Once at the gate in Amarillo, police officers boarded the plane to escort Fagiana to the Amarillo Airport Police Office. Fagiana told officers the flex cuffs “were hurting him,” and when officers went to exchange them with steel handcuffs, Fagiana kicked one of the officers “in the groin area and spit on escorting officers.”

During an interview shortly after the incident, Fagiana said he did not remember anything that happened on the flight and admitted to drinking “some ‘Captain Morgans’ at different bars in Las Vegas before the flight.” 

However, Fagiana did admit to “fighting” with the police officers “because he didn’t want to be arrested,” the complaint said. 

Fagiana has been charged with interfering with a flight crew, a criminal charge, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. He was appointed an assistant federal public defender on Tuesday and is currently being held in custody by the United States Marshal. The case is entering prosecution.

“Acts of violence are not tolerated by American Airlines and we are committed to working closely with law enforcement in their investigation,” an American Airlines spokesperson told USA TODAY in an email. 

The plane departed shortly after Fagiana was escorted off and landed in Bozeman over six hours late. 

This article originally appeared on USA Today.

Photo: Reuters.

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