Federal Criminal Complaint Charges Six San Diego-Area Men with Interference with a Flight Crew
AMARILLO, TX—Six men who were aboard Southwest Airlines flight 1522 yesterday in route from San Diego to Chicago that was diverted to Rick Husband International Airport in Amarillo, Texas, for the safety of the flight crew and passengers, have each been charged in a federal criminal complaint with interference with a flight crew and aiding and abetting. U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas made the announcement this afternoon.
Those six men, all residents of the San Diego area, Saiman Hermez, 19; Jonathan Khalid Petras, 20; Ghazwan Asaad Shaba, 21; Essa Solaqa, 20; Khalid Yohana, 19; and Wisam Imad Shaker, 23; are scheduled to make their initial appearance in federal court in Amarillo tomorrow, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Clinton E. Averitte, at 9:30 a.m.
The entire flight crew and all passengers were required to deplane in Amarillo. Law enforcement personnel removed the six defendants from the aircraft.
According to the complaint, the six defendants, who were sitting together on the plane, were disruptive and did not comply with instructions. They initially refused to put their seat backs and tray tables up. Later, when a flight attendant was taking drink orders, they started talking loudly and using profanity. When a flight attendant asked them to quiet down, they responded that they could be as loud as they want. When a flight attendant said they could not do that, they lunged forward in their seats and said, “We can do whatever we want on here.”
The six defendants then asked for alcohol to be served to them, and when denied, they became aggressive by lunging forward at a flight attendant. Another flight attendant also refused to serve them alcohol, and they accused the flight attendants of being racist. The defendants did not comply with anything they were asked to do; they were repeatedly standing up and becoming increasingly louder and attempted to incite other passengers to join their noncompliant behavior.
The flight attendants advised another flight attendant about the group of passengers acting in a defiant, loud and aggressive manner. That flight attendant asked them what was happening and they told her they paid for their ticket and would act any way they wanted to. They became louder and began waving their hands at the flight attendant after she advised them she would separate them if they did not comply. Because of the increasing escalation of loud and aggressive behavior, that flight attendant was in fear for the safety of the crew and passengers and asked the pilots to divert the aircraft.
A passenger on the plane heard them call the flight attendant who refused to serve them alcohol a racist and a pig. She heard them tell each other to throw gang signs and then saw them using their hands to gesture gang signs. They then used profanity to call this passenger names.
A complaint is a written statement of the essential facts of the offense charged and must be made under oath before a magistrate judge. A defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The government has 30 days to present the matter to a grand jury for indictment. The maximum statutory penalty for the offense as charged is 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. The FBI, the Amarillo Police Department and the Rick Husband International Airport Police are investigating. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joshua Frausto and Timothy Hammer are in charge of the prosecution.