A California man who forced the unscheduled landing of a commercial jet in Omaha over the weekend will remain behind bars until his next hearing on April 24. In a court appearance Wednesday, Joshua Suggs told a magistrate, “I wasn’t trying to harm anybody.”
Suggs allegedly tried to open a door on the aircraft in mid-flight. Other passengers on the Chicago to Sacramento trip subdued him.
Suggs’ attorney, James Martin Davis, wants his client to receive a psychological exam and he argued Wednesday that Suggs was neither a danger nor a flight risk.
The Magistrate said he could not rule on the issues Wednesday and ordered Suggs detained pending another detention hearing on April 24.
Suggs mother and aunt were present during Wednesday’s proceedings but declined comment.
Suggs’ comment about not trying to harm anybody was made to the magistrate as Suggs was led out of court in restraints.
Attorney James Martin Davis told WOWT 6 News on Tuesday that Suggs suffered a panic attack “either psychologically or pharmaceutically induced." Davis said Suggs believed the plane was "going up and down" and believes the missing Malaysian airliner had a subconscious affect on his client. Davis plans ask the judge to order a psychiatric evaluation for Suggs.
The airline said the plane landed at Eppley Airfield to "have an unruly passenger removed" before continuing on to its destination. The flight with 134 passengers and five crew members arrived in Sacramento about two hours late.
According to the criminal complaint filed Monday in federal court, Joshua Carl Lee Suggs first approached the flight attendant an hour after departure after the crew finished the initial beverage service on the plane.
The flight attendant reportedly told Suggs twice that the seat belt sign was on and that he needed to return to his seat. He had allegedly wanted to look out the window and told the flight attendant when asked to sit down the first time.
After being asked the second time to take his seat, Suggs allegedly pushed the flight attendant and attempted to open the exterior door of the plane. Another flight attendant reportedly stepped in between Suggs and the door and called for help.
Several passengers left their seats and subdued Suggs. A flight attendant grabbed a pair of restraints as Suggs allegedly struggled and continued to be combative with passengers, who held him to the floor. A passenger was able to get the restraints on Suggs. A row was cleared and Suggs was held until the plane could make an emergency landing in Omaha.
Once on the ground, a doctor on board told KCRA-TV he and two other passengers tackled the man in the back of the cabin and restrained him until air marshals escorted him off the plane. Dr. Scott Porter said the man "was going to do bad things to the plane."
Passengers told law enforcement that Suggs pupils appeared to be dilated and he appeared to be altered mentally.
While the stunt was unnerving, it was also impossible to pull off. If you imagine pulling a drain plug or an old refrigerator that's sealed tight and multiply the resistance by 20,000, that’s the type of pressure keeping the planes exit doors intact.
WOWT 6 News spoke with a pilot who said he understands how someone tampering with an exit door during a flight would be frightening, but passengers should take comfort in the math. He said the door cannot be opened because of the pressurized cabin. In his words, it's locked by physics and even the Six Million Man cannot open it.
Passengers recorded what they saw on their cell phones. “All of a sudden we heard a woman scream way in the back," said Andre Lescari. "We saw the stewardess rush to the back and it was all sorts of commotion."
“Fear immediately sets in," said Natalie Lee. "We had people nauseated, practically fainting, crying."
Dr. Porter said they "just tied his hands together and put him in the chair and I think one of the marshals sat with him for the rest of the trip 'til we got to Omaha."
The charge facing Suggs, who lives in Sacramento, is interference with flight crew members and attendants. A conviction could get Suggs up to 20 years in jail.