2 Arrested in Separate Chicago-Related Flight Incidents

A man carrying a Yemen passport reportedly started banging on the cockpit door aboard a flight from Chicago

A passenger was wrestled to the ground and put in handcuffs Sunday night after he began banging on the cockpit door of an American Airlines flight approaching San Francisco from Chicago. It happened hours after a flight from Houston to Chicago was diverted to St. Louis when a passenger tried opening the plane's door during the flight.

The second of the two incidents was on American Airlines Flight 1561, which left Chicago at 7:05 p.m. on its way to San Francisco. About 30 minutes before landing, a male passenger made his way to the front of the cabin near the cockpit door, according to American Airlines spokeswoman Mary Fagan. 

The door was locked and the passenger became unruly, Fagan said.

A flight attendant wrestled the man, identified as Rageh Almurisi, 28, to the ground with the help of two passengers. They subdued him and put him into plastic cuffs. Almurisi was turned over to San Francisco police and the TSA after the plane landed safely at 9:10 p.m. at San Francisco International Airport. A crew of six was aboard along with 156 passengers.

Sgt. Michael Rodrigues of the San Francisco police told the Associated Press he doesn't know Almurisi's nationality but said he carried a Yemen passport. Almurisi faces federal charges of interfering with a flight crew. He is being held at San Mateo County Jail.

In an unrelated incident Sunday afternoon, an unruly passenger on Continental Airlines Flight 546 tried to open the plane's door mid-flight.

According to an affidavit filed Monday with the federal complaint, Burbank's Reynel C. Alcaide exited his seat and rushed up the aisle toward the front of the aircraft. A flight attendant tried to stop him, but he pinned the flight attendant against the wall while repeatedly attempted to unlatch, cycle, and open the door in mid flight.

Alcaide was subdued by passengers and crew members and the flight was diverted to Lambert International Airport in St. Louis.

Alcaide, 34, is charged with a violation of Title 18 (crimes involving aircraft), and a violation of Title 49 (interference with flight crew members and attendants).

If convicted, each offense carries maximum penalties of 20 years imprisonment. In determining the actual sentences, a Judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.

A former reporter for the Chicago Tribune who was on the plane said she feared it was somehow related to Osama Bin Laden's death. "I started shaking and tears were coming out of my eyes," she told the paper. "My heart was pounding through my chest."

Continental Airlines said there was no indication the unruly passenger was in any way connected to a terrorist threat.
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