The American pilot who tried to shut down a plane's engines in mid-flight while he was a passenger this weekend had taken magic mushrooms and thought he was having a nervous breakdown, court documents showed Tuesday.
Pilots operating the plane pulled Joseph Emerson from the cockpit Sunday after he lunged for handles that could have starved the engines of fuel, turning the plane into a glider.
Emerson, who told police he had not slept in 40 hours, also tried to open an emergency door in the back of the plane and had to be restrained by the crew during a crash landing.
"I pulled the emergency lock handles because I thought I was dreaming and wanted to wake up," Emerson told police, according to the criminal complaint.
Emerson and the investigating officer "discussed the use of psychedelic mushrooms and Emerson said it was his first time taking them."
The 44-year-old man was arrested Sunday night after the Alaska Airlines flight made an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon.
According to the Oregon District Attorney's Office, Emerson faces a federal charge of interfering with crew members and flight attendants.
He has also been charged in Oregon with 83 counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of endangering an aircraft.
US media reported this Tuesday that Emerson pleaded not guilty in his first court appearance.
Emerson had boarded the flight (operated by Horizon Air) between Everett, Washington state, and San Francisco, California. He sat in a seat in the cabin, in accordance with what the airline established for his staff after hours.
Shortly after takeoff, after speaking with the pilots, "Emerson attempted to grab and pull the two red handles that could have activated the plane's emergency fire suppression system, depriving its engines of fuel," the Justice Department said.
"After a brief physical struggle with the pilots, Emerson exited the cockpit."
Alaska Airlines said Monday that the pilots reacted quickly by reversing the handles, and the aircraft landed safely.
"The crew tied Emerson's wrists and sat him in the back of the plane," the Justice Department said.
«During the plane's descent, Emerson attempted to grab the emergency door handle. "A flight attendant stopped him by grabbing his hands."