Attempted murder charges dropped against pilot who ‘tried to cut plane’s engines’

US News

A former Alaska Airlines pilot accused of trying to cut the engines of a Horizon Air flight will not face charges of attempted murder.

Joseph Emerson has been indicted on 84 endangerment charges – for each person on the plane – and one charge of endangering an aircraft.

He previously pleaded not guilty to attempted murder charges filed by state prosecutors and to a federal charge of interfering with a flight crew.

Prosecutors have accused Emerson, 44, of trying to cut the engines on the 22 October flight from Everett, Washington state, to San Francisco while riding in the extra seat in the cockpit.

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The FBI said in an affidavit that after a brief struggle, he left the cockpit and attendants put him in wrist restraints and seated him in the back of the aircraft which was diverted to Portland.

According to charging documents, Emerson told Port of Portland police he had been struggling with depression, that a friend had recently died and that he had taken psychedelic mushrooms about 48 hours before he attempted to cut the engines.

He also said he had not slept in more than 40 hours.

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Emerson’s defence lawyers welcomed the grand jury’s decision.

They said: “The attempted murder charges were never appropriate in this case because Captain Emerson never intended to hurt another person or put anyone at risk – he just wanted to return home to his wife and children.

“Simply put: Captain Emerson thought he was in a dream.”

Emerson remains in custody in Multnomah County, Oregon.

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