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US: Man charged with assault after he tried to stab co-passenger on Alaska Airlines flight

Julio Alvarez Lopez was charged after attempting to stab a co-passenger on a January 24 flight from Seattle to Las Vegas. Lopez said he intended to kill the victim as he felt the latter was following him and also claimed to be chased after by the mafia.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Las Vegas Published on: February 23, 2024 15:48 IST
Alaska Airlines, stabbing incident
Image Source : AP Representational Image

Las Vegas: A man accused of trying to stab another passenger aboard an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Las Vegas has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. The suspect reportedly told authorities he intended to kill the victim and made an improvised weapon by wrapping rubber bands around several pens. 

A grand jury handed down a one-count indictment against Julio Alvarez Lopez on Wednesday over the incident, which occurred on a January 24 flight from Seattle to Las Vegas, according to federal court records in Nevada. The victim was identified as an off-duty law enforcement officer who had been seated with his family across the aisle from Lopez.

Lopez, who was described as being “fidgety” throughout the flight as he continuously put on and removed his gloves, had gone to the bathroom for an extended period during the flight’s initial descent. A woman seated next to Lopez said he returned from a trip to the restroom and began punching the victim. The woman and the victim's wife screamed at Lopez to stop. The man began walking toward the front of the plane and sat down after the victim ordered him to do so, according to an FBI agent's affidavit. 

He was restrained with flex cuffs for the rest of the flight and arrested by Las Vegas police after the plane landed. Lopez said he had never seen the victim before the morning flight but believed the man was following him and planned on killing him, according to the affidavit. The case is also being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Lopez told authorities that the mafia had been chasing him for months and that he was seeking asylum in the United States. A federal magistrate said Lopez is a citizen of Mexico with a valid Mexican passport, he is unemployed and homeless and has no ties to Las Vegas. She ordered him held in custody until trial.

"The aircraft landed safely, and law enforcement took one passenger into custody after the plane arrived at the gate. We’re thankful for our crew for their professionalism in the handling of the incident," the airline added. The witness said "there was blood everywhere" and that the suspect dropped something that looked like a "pen and tape bundle", according to NBC News.

The magistrate said Lopez intended to kill his victim by stabbing him through the eye and into his brain. A photograph of the victim showed injuries above his right eye. Lopez's public defender did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(with inputs from AP)

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