HONOLULU (AP) — A man who caused a disturbance on a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu had no luggage other than a laptop and needed a wheelchair to board the plane because he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to court documents released Monday.
Anil Uskanli, who has a Turkish passport, didn’t have any checked or carry-on luggage for Friday’s American Airlines flight, a criminal complaint filed in federal court said. Uskanli, 25, boarded only with a laptop, phone, laptop charger and some items in his pockets.
Flight attendants feared the laptop contained explosives, the complaint said, and two fighter jets were summoned to escort the plane to Hawaii. He was arrested in Honolulu and charged with interfering with a flight crew.
He spoke with a Turkish interpreter before a brief court hearing Monday, where a judge ordered that he undergo a mental competency evaluation. Federal Public Defender Peter Wolff said he requested the evaluation partly because of the actions described in the criminal complaint. The Bureau of Prisons will determine where he will go for the evaluation.
Uskanli bought his ticket around midnight and was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport after opening a door that led to an airfield ramp at about 2:45 a.m., airport police said. He was looking for food, spokesman Rob Pedregon said.
Though police smelled alcohol on Uskanli’s breath, he was not intoxicated enough to be held for public drunkenness, so they cited and released him.
His boarding pass was confiscated and he was walked out to a public area of the airport, police said. He went back, got another boarding pass for the flight and went through security screening again.
It’s not common practice for police to notify an airline if someone opens a door to a restricted area, like Uskanli did, Pedregon said.
“If he was a danger, we would not have ever let him go,” he said.
Because he had walked into the restricted area at the airport and he was determined to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, crew members helped him to the plane using a wheelchair, the complaint said.
An American Airlines spokesman said, however, that it was Uskanli who requested the wheelchair at the ticket counter, then went through security and on to the gate for the flight.
He was the first to board the airplane, a flight attendant told the FBI. At the door of the plane, flight attendants helped Uskanli, the complaint said. He sat down in first class though his ticket wasn’t in that cabin. After several requests, he moved to his assigned seat toward the back of the plane.
Passengers told the FBI that Uskanli acted strangely on the flight, including talking about being a famous actor and pounding on walls after someone walked into a restroom he had left unlocked.
At one point, he got up from his seat, wrapped a blanket around his head, picked up his laptop and started walking to the front of the plane. A flight attendant used a drink cart to block him.
Uskanli put the laptop on the drink cart, the complaint said, which scared flight attendants because they are aware “that laptop computers potentially pose a new threat to airplane security because they may contain explosives that are undetected by airport screening measures.”
The captain initiated bomb threat procedures, and flight attendants barricaded the laptop with crew bags. An off-duty law enforcement officer sat with Uskanli for the remainder of the flight, the complaint said.
No explosives were found after the plane landed. FBI agents then interviewed Uskanli.
“When I asked him if he ever had terroristic thoughts, he responded, ‘We all have those ideas,'” an agent wrote in an affidavit.
The agent asked again later about terroristic thoughts. In response, Uskanli made a gun shape with his fingers and pretended to shoot her, she wrote.
“He then did a gesture simulating a chopping motion toward my neck,” the agent wrote.
He then told another agent, “I’ll kill her, get out the following day and shoot myself,” according to the court documents.
The complaint said he consented to a urine test and field sobriety tests. The urinalysis was presumptively positive for benzodiazepine, a tranquilizer, and the field tests indicated possible use of stimulants or cannabis, the complaint said.
Associated Press Writers Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles and David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.