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Marshal Aimed Gun at Passengers, Witnesses Say

September 01, 2002|From Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — A federal air marshal pointed a gun toward passengers on a flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia for about 30 minutes Saturday while his partner detained an unruly passenger, travelers said.

Passengers on Delta Air Lines Flight 442 said one marshal kept his weapon pointed at the coach cabin while the other huddled over the detainee, who was released after the plane landed.

"He had the cockpit door to his back, and he is pointing his weapon toward the tail," Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge James A. Lineberger said. The marshal "had the cabin folks under siege."

"If he would have accidentally fired, he would have killed somebody or hurt somebody," said passenger David Johnson, 51.

Federal prosecutors declined to charge the detainee after talking with the marshals, FBI spokeswoman Jerri Williams said Saturday. She wouldn't release his name or elaborate on the incident.

Transportation Security Administration spokesman David Steigman said air marshals "dealt with a passenger who was acting in an odd and obstreperous manner." He refused to say whether the marshal pointed a weapon.

A Delta spokeswoman declined to comment about the incident.

Johnson and his wife, Susan, of Mobile, Ala., said they noticed a man talking to a female passenger sitting in the row behind him about an hour after the flight began.

Shortly after noon, they said, marshals took the man into custody in the first-class section of the plane, which carried 183 passengers.

The government has had air marshals patrolling planes since the 1980s but put hundreds more in the air after the Sept. 11 hijackings of four jetliners that crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a western Pennsylvania field.

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