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Off-duty pilot arrested after 'trying to crash plane’ pleads not guilty to 83 counts of attempted murder

Off-duty pilot arrested after 'trying to crash plane’ pleads not guilty to 83 counts of attempted murder

Joseph Emerson allegedly pulled the plane's fire extinguisher handles to cut fuel to the Alaska Airlines flight

An Alaska Airlines pilot has pleaded not guilty to 83 counts of attempted murder after allegedly trying to shut down the engines of a plane while he was off-duty.

Joseph D. Emerson was a passenger on the flight from Washington state to San Francisco when he allegedly attempted to cut fuel to the engines on Sunday (22 October).

He had been seated in the flight deck 'jump seat', a seat in the cockpit sometimes used when pilots are traveling in an official capacity or commuting between airports, and allegedly tried to shut down the engines by pulling the plane's fire extinguisher handles.

According to a federal affidavit, Emerson then said to the pilots: "I'm not okay."

The working pilot of the plane and the first officer managed to spring into action and prevent the engines from failing completely, while other members of the flight crew attempted to subdue Emerson.

The US attorney’s office has claimed Emerson later attempted to grab the handle of an emergency exit on the plane while it was descending.

Joseph Emerson is being held without bail.
KGW News

The plane was diverted to land in Portland, Oregon, where police then took Emerson into custody.

He was charged by the state with 83 felony counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of endangering an aircraft, and has since received an additional charge in federal court of interfering with a flight crew.

Emerson appeared in court on Tuesday (24 October), where he pleaded not guilty to all state charges.

When he was in custody, the off-duty pilot told a police officer he had become depressed about six months ago, according to an affidavit authored by an FBI agent.

He denied taking any medications for his mental health, though he did discuss psychedelic mushrooms with the responding officer.

Joseph Emerson was arrested in Oregon after the plane made an emergency landing.
Facebook/Joseph Emerson

The affidavit claimed Emerson 'said it was his first-time taking mushrooms', though a spokesperson for the US Attorney’s Office in Oregon told CNN it is still investigating whether Emerson was under the influence of magic mushrooms while on the plane.

According to the affidavit, a flight attendant on the plane heard Emerson say he 'messed everything up', and that he 'tried to kill everybody'.

“Emerson was heard saying he had just put 84 peoples’ lives at risk tonight including his own," it stated.

While in custody, Emerson told officers he was 'admitting to what [he] did', adding: “I’m not fighting any charges you want to bring against me, guys."

Emerson is now being held without bail at the Multnomah County Jail

Featured Image Credit: Facebook/Joseph Emerson / Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Topics: Travel, US News, Crime