OREGON- An off-duty Alaska Airlines (AS) pilot, who allegedly attempted to sabotage a crowded flight while under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms, avoided facing attempted murder charges as per a grand jury indictment on Monday.
Joseph Emerson, aged 44, has been charged with one count of endangering an aircraft and 83 counts of recklessly endangering another person.
Alaska Airlines Pilot Avoids Murder Charge
Notably, the grand jury opted not to pursue the originally sought 83 counts of attempted murder, as clarified by Oregon prosecutors. The decision was based on the determination that the longtime pilot did not have the intention to harm anyone during the incident, according to a statement from his attorney.
During the episode, which occurred on an October 22 Horizon Air flight from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco, California, Emerson, who was traveling as a standby employee passenger in the cockpit jump seat, allegedly attempted to activate the jet’s two fire suppression handles.
These handles are designed to cut the fuel supply and shut down both engines, authorities reported.
The pilot and first officer on duty managed to prevent Emerson from reaching the controls, and the flight crew restrained him until the aircraft safely landed in Portland, Oregon.
According to a police officer who interviewed the flight crew, Emerson informed them, “You need to cuff me right now, or it’s going to be bad.”
Upon arrest at the gate, Emerson explained to the police that he had been undergoing a days-long mental spiral and had not slept in 40 hours, attributing his state to taking psychedelic mushrooms with friends during a weekend getaway.
Expressing a distorted sense of reality, Emerson stated that he couldn’t discern whether what he was experiencing was real or a nightmare, and he believed he might be in hell.
In an interview from the county jail in Portland, he told The New York Times, “I thought it would stop both engines, the plane would start to head towards a crash, and I would wake up.”
During this episode, he messaged friends about a mental breakdown and texted his wife that he had “made a big mistake.”
Inside the airport detention room, Emerson proceeded to strip naked, attempted to jump out of a window, urinated on himself, and engaged in inappropriate behavior, all in the hope of jolting himself awake.
“If this is reality, and everything that happened was real, then I have done something to myself that is unimaginable,” he conveyed to law enforcement.
Upon finally coming down from the psychedelic trip, which occurred five days after ingesting the mushrooms, he expressed being “horrified” at the realization that his actions on the plane had jeopardized lives.
Emerson is facing charges in US District Court and is scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday.
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