Pilot Who Tried to Kill Flight’s Engines Told Cops He’d Taken Shrooms, Feds Say

David Middlecamp/San Luis Obsipo Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
David Middlecamp/San Luis Obsipo Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The off-duty pilot who allegedly tried to shut down the engines of an Alaska Airlines plane mid-flight told authorities that he’d taken psychedelic mushrooms “for the first time,” according to a new court filing.

The filing, which detailed a new federal charge against Joseph David Emerson along with other fresh details about the bizarre episode, does not specify when he took the mushrooms.

But sitting in the flight deck jump seat of a plane midway between Everett, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, Emerson engaged pilots in “casual conversation,” before telling them he was dehydrated and “not OK,” court documents say. He then reached for two fire handles in an attempt to cut fuel to the engines, prosecutors alleged.

“I didn’t feel okay. It seemed like the pilots weren’t paying attention to what was going on. They didn’t...it didn’t seem right,” Emerson later told police, according to the documents. “I pulled both emergency shut off handles because I thought I was dreaming and I just wanna wake up.”

Off-Duty Pilot Allegedly Tried to Kill the Engines on Alaska Airlines Flight

Emerson added that he hadn’t slept in 40 hours and was having a “nervous breakdown.”

A mid-air struggle with the on-duty pilots ensued for around 90 seconds before the pilots ejected Emerson from the cockpit, at which point he became the flight attendants’ problem.

“You need to cuff me right now or it’s going to be bad,” he said to a flight attendant, according to court documents.

An attendant did so and, while handcuffed in the back of the plane, Emerson reached for the emergency exit handle during the flight’s descent before attendants stopped him, the filing states.

Another attendant recalled Emerson allegedly saying that“I messed everything up” and that “he tried to kill everybody.”

The 44-year-old faces 83 felony counts of attempted murder, as well as a new federal charge of “interfering with flight crew members and attendants,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon announced Tuesday.

He remains in Multnomah County Detention Center pending his first court appearance.

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