An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot said he took “magic mushrooms” about 48 hours before authorities say he tried to shut down the plane’s engines mid-flight, according to court documents filed Tuesday. Following a scare Sunday on a San Francisco-bound flight, Joseph Emerson told investigators that he thought he was dreaming and wanted to wake up, an Oregon prosecutor said in an affidavit.
Emerson, 44, has pleaded not guilty to 83 chargesA charge of reckless endangerment was filed in state court Tuesday afternoon. In addition to those felonies, he also pleaded not guilty to 83 counts of reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor.
Earlier Tuesday, federal prosecutors said Emerson also tried to grab an emergency exit handle while flight attendants detained him. The US Attorney’s Office in Oregon announced in a statement on Tuesday that a federal court had charged him with interfering with flight crew members and flight attendants.
The flight attendant told responding officers that Emerson said he “tried to kill everyone,” according to an FBI agent’s affidavit, which was part of a criminal complaint filed Tuesday.
“I messed up everything,” Emerson said, according to court documents.
On the ground, Emerson told officers he thought he was having a “nervous breakdown” and had not slept in 40 hours, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit.
According to a different affidavit filed by a Multnomah County deputy prosecutor, Emerson told an officer that he had been suffering from depression for six years and that a friend had recently died. He told another officer that he had taken “magic mushrooms” about 48 hours before Sunday’s incident.
“I don’t understand why you’re showing me this much kindness, I’m clearly distraught,” Emerson told the officer, according to the affidavit.
The officer noted that Emerson did not appear to be “apparently under the influence of intoxicants,” according to the affidavit.
Alaska AirlinesShe was “deeply disturbed” by Tuesday’s revelations and that Emerson did not appear vulnerable before the takeoff.
“At no time during the check-in or boarding process did our gate agents or flight crew notice any signs of malfunction that might cause them to deny Emerson a flight,” the airline said in a statement.
Prosecutors said Emerson was sitting in the jump seat in the cockpit of Alaska Airlines Flight 2059 from Everett, Wash., on Sunday when he tried to activate the plane’s emergency fire suppression system, which would have cut off fuel to the engines.
Before the crash, he and the flight’s pilots were talking casually in the cockpit, one of the pilots told investigators, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit. Emerson then threw the headset across the cockpit and said, “I’m not okay,” according to the documents.
Emerson then grabbed the two red handles that would activate the funnel system and pulled them, one of the pilots said, according to the documents. The other pilot told investigators that Emerson was unable to land on the handles because the pilots were wrestling with him.
“I pulled the emergency shut-off handles because I thought I was dreaming and I just wanted to wake up,” Emerson told officers on the ground, according to the documents.
According to the documents, Emerson and the pilots struggled in the cockpit for about 25 seconds before Emerson stabilized. The entire incident lasted about 90 seconds before Emerson was asked to leave the cockpit, with the pilots securing the door behind him.
The cockpit contacted flight attendants and told them Emerson was “losing it,” according to the documents. Alaska said a flight attendant escorted Emerson to the back of the plane. Emerson walked there peacefully, telling a flight attendant that he had “just been kicked out of the cockpit,” according to the documents.
“You have to handcuff me now or it’s going to be bad,” Emerson told the flight attendant, according to the documents.
Flight attendants placed Emerson in wrist restraints and seated him in the back of the plane. As the plane was descending into Portland Airport, Emerson tried to grab the emergency exit handle, prosecutors said. The flight attendant placed her hand on his to stop him.
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