UPDATE: Wednesday, September 2nd
Amarillo, TX - Six California men appeared in federal court in downtown Amarillo to go before a U.S. Magistrate Judge on charges of interfering with a flight crew.
The men, who all requested court appointed attorneys were expected to enter a plea at 9:30 this morning. However, that did not happen. The men will return briefly to the Randall County jail, then are free to leave.
Conditions were set along with their release. The judge has ordered the men to appear in Amarillo September 14th for a preliminary examination. Until that time, all six must report to probation officers.
The men are only allowed to travel in southern districts of California or back and forth to Amarillo, and they cannot fly Southwest.
AMARILLO, TX. - Southwest Airlines Flight 1522 from California headed for Chicago was diverted to Amarillo Monday night.
Six men, all members of a San Diego soccer team, were acting rudely and arguing with the flight crew causing the crew to land the plane in Amarillo.
The men were detained at Rick Husband International Airport at the direction of the FBI. The men were then transported to the Randall County jail.
The six are being charged with the Federal offense of interference with a flight crew and are scheduled to appear in Amarillo Federal Court Wednesday at 9:30am.
No-one was injured as part of the incident but the flight to Chicago was delayed for several hours.
NewsChannel 10 will bring you their pleas Wednesday as they become available.
Statement from Southwest Airlines:
Southwest flight #1522 from San Diego to Chicago's Midway International Airport made an unscheduled stop at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport last night after several passengers traveling together became disorderly and, subsequently, refused to obey instructions from the crew.
Out of an abundance of caution, the pilots in command of the flight diverted to Amarillo where law enforcement officials met the aircraft and detained six individuals. Additionally, six other members of the group chose to deplane and remain in Amarillo. The flight eventually continued to Chicago where it landed without further incident.
Safety is the top priority at Southwest Airlines, and we will always take appropriate actions to ensure the safety and security of our crews and customers.
From U.S. Attorney John R. Parker, Northern District of Texas:
Federal Criminal Complaint Charges Six San Diego-Area Men
With Interference With a Flight Crew
AMARILLO, Texas — 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 non-compliant 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.