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U.S. charges passenger with assaulting American Airlines flight attendant

Nov 1 (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors in Colorado on Monday charged a 20-year-old California man with assaulting a flight attendant on an Oct. 27 American Airlines (AAL.O) flight that forced its diversion.

The New York to Santa Ana, California, flight made an unscheduled landing in Denver after the alleged assault in which witnesses said a flight attendant was punched in the nose, resulting in bleeding and a concussion.

Brian Hsu, of Irvine, California, who is also charged with interference with a flight crew, was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond by U.S. Magistrate Judge Autumn Spaeth after making an initial appearance in a U.S. district court in Santa Ana on Monday.

Spaeth ordered him to appear in Denver on Nov. 15 for a hearing and directed him to submit to a mental health evaluation.

A lawyer for Hsu did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

U.S. airlines have reported a record number of violent incidents this year and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has pledged a "zero tolerance" approach.

American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker said in a video posted on Instagram last week "this type of behavior has to stop," calling the incident "one of the worst displays of unruly behavior we've ever witnessed."

An FBI agent said in an affidavit a witness reported Hsu punched the flight attendant in the face near the lavatory.

The flight attendant felt dizzy after the flight and was removed by stretcher. She was taken to the hospital where doctors told her that she had a concussion and she told the FBI she "currently has pain in her nose, head, and sinuses."

Hsu told the FBI he was returning home to California from New York after receiving brain surgery in Rhode Island.

Hsu said he accidentally bumped a flight attendant and claimed the flight attendant then "charged at him and hit her nose against the palm of his right hand."

The flight attendant said she was struck on the head when speaking to another flight attendant. After telling the passenger to sit down because the fasten seat belt sign was lighted, "the male passenger raised his arms as though he were going to stretch" but then struck her on the head, the FBI said.

The flight attendant said she "took a defensive posture" and then he charged at her flailing his arms, the FBI affidavit said, adding the passenger initially backed down but later charged her and "struck her in the face."

On Oct. 8, President Joe Biden said he instructed the Justice Department to "deal" with the rising number of violent incidents onboard planes.

Through Oct. 25, there have been 4,941 reports of unruly passenger incidents, including 3,580 related to pandemic face covering regulations.

In June, a group representing major U.S. airlines such as American, Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) and United Airlines , as well as aviation unions, asked the Justice Department to prosecute violent air passengers.

A union representing Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) workers said in May that a flight attendant "was seriously assaulted, resulting in injuries to the face and a loss of two teeth."

This article originally appeared on Reuters

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