LOS ANGELES (KNX) — Authorities arrested an unruly passenger at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday after allegedly assaulting a flight attendant on a plane arriving from Los Cabos International Airport in San José del Cabo, Mexico.
The FBI, which took over the investigation since the assault happened in the air, said it detained 33-year-old Alexander Tung Cuu Le of Westminster after the flight landed on suspicion of interfering with a flight crew, a federal offense. He is expected to make his first court appearance Thursday afternoon.
An affidavit accused Le of leaving his seat about 20 minutes after takeoff and grabbing a flight attendant's shoulder to ask for coffee. Moments later, prosecutors said Le grabbed both of the flight attendant's shoulders from behind. When the flight attendant stepped back and put up a defensive posture, Le walked to the front of the plane.
Le allegedly started loitering near the first-class cabin and sat in an unoccupied seat near the wall separating the area from the rest of the plane. When another flight attendant approached and asked Le to return to his seat, prosecutors said Le refused to comply and stood up, showing his fists.
Prosecutors said Le swung but missed, adding that's when the flight attendant turned to walk away and report the unruly behavior to the pilot. That's when they said Le ran up behind the flight attendant and punched him in the back of the head. Several passengers witnessed the assault, including one who recorded the attack on his phone.
Le allegedly returned to the front of the airplane but was restrained by several passengers near an exit row. Authorities said he was moved to another row, where his hands and legs were cuffed. Because he kept unbuckling his seatbelt, federal officials say flight attendants had to restrain him using seatbelt extenders.
"Acts of violence against our team members are not tolerated by American Airlines. The individual involved in this incident will never be allowed to travel with us in the future, and we will work closely with law enforcement in their investigation," American Airlines said in a statement.
Since the incident occurred in the air, LAX police are not involved.
If convicted as charged, Le faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.