A man who allegedly attempted to open an emergency exit on a cross-country United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Boston before attempting to stab a flight attendant in the neck with a homemade shank fashioned out of a metal spoon has been deemed unfit to currently stand trial.
Francisco Severo Torres, 33, of Leominster, Massachusetts, faces trial on a charge of interference with flight crew members and flight attendants using a dangerous weapon following the terrifying midflight incident on March 5.
On Wednesday, however, U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein ruled that Torres was currently suffering from a mental disease that renders him “mentally incompetent” to stand trial because he cannot understand the nature and consequences of the court proceedings.
Judge Dein based her decision on a sealed forensic examination, as well as her own observations of Torres in court.
Torres had asked the court for permission to be released on bail so that he “could further investigate the conspiracy which eventually led to his actions on the plane”.
Judge Dein said she considered but denied the request. Torres was ordered to be hospitalized for up to four months, during which time it will be assessed whether he will attain the necessary capacity to undergo trial.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the pilots of United Air flight UA2609 were first alerted to a problem in the cabin when an alarm activated, indicating that one of the emergency exits located on the starboard side of the aircraft between the first class and coach had been disarmed.
A flight attendant was sent to check the door, and they noticed that not only had the slide arming lever been moved to the disarmed position but that the door locking handle had also been moved around a quarter of the way to the unlocked position.
“It is alleged that Torres got out of his seat and approached the starboard side door where two flight attendants were standing in the aisle,” prosecutors said in March.
“Torres mouthed something at the flight attendants and then allegedly “thrust towards one of the flight attendants in a stabbing motion with a broken metal spoon, hitting the flight attendant on the neck area three times”.
Passengers rushed to the aid of the flight attendants and managed to restrain and subdue Torres before law enforcement met the aircraft on arrival in Boston.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.