California man subdued by passengers and crew of American Airlines flight to Washington, DC – Lee’s Summit Tribune

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Californian man was overpowered by several passengers and flight attendants when he attempted to open the exit door of an American Airlines flight en route to Washington, DC on Sunday afternoon , forcing the plane to land at Kansas City International Airport in Kansas City, Missouri.

Juan Remberto Rivas, 50, has been charged with one count of assaulting and intimidating a flight attendant and interfering with the flight attendant’s duties. Rivas remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

Rivas was a passenger aboard American Airlines Flight 1775 traveling nonstop from Los Angeles, California to Washington, D.C., which was diverted to Kansas City International Airport in Kansas City, Missouri around 14 28 p.m. on Sunday, February 13. According to an affidavit filed in support of today’s federal criminal complaint, Rivas created a disturbance in the plane that worsened when he approached the cockpit.

Rivas grabbed some plastic silverware, removed the napkin wrapped around it, and placed the plastic silverware in his shirt sleeve and held it like a rod. A flight attendant told federal agents he felt threatened by the knife. Rivas then grabbed a small bottle of champagne by the neck of the bottle and attempted to smash the bottle on the counter. He started kicking and pushing the service cart into one of the flight attendants.

Rivas, who is about six-foot-three and weighs about 240 pounds, reportedly grabbed the handles used to operate the plane’s starboard forward exit door. Rivas placed one foot on the plane’s door, according to the affidavit, and began to pull hard on the handle with one hand, first, then with both hands.

A flight attendant grabbed a coffee maker and hit Rivas twice in the head with it. Several passengers showed up to help the flight attendants, the affidavit states.

One of the passengers, a policeman, began to struggle with Rivas and pushed him away from the door. One passenger punched Rivas in the jaw and another grabbed his neck and pulled him to the ground.

Passengers and flight attendants restrained Rivas until they could secure his hands and feet with zip ties and duct tape.

Rivas received medical treatment for a head laceration. Flight attendants told investigators that they did not serve Rivas alcohol during the flight.

The charge contained in this complaint is merely an accusation*, not proof of guilt. The evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal jury, whose duty it is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul S. Becker. He was investigated by the FBI.

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