Delta passenger Michael Demarre tried to open emergency exit so he could be caught on camera talking about covid vaccines, feds say
When asked why he tried to open the in-flight emergency door, the Portland resident told police he hoped passengers on board would start filming him so he had “the ‘opportunity to share his thoughts on covid-19 vaccines,’ according to an FBI affidavit. Agent Adam T. Hoover. In passenger video obtained by the Register-Guard, Demarre is seen shouting, ‘We’re all being lied to’ and mumbling about coronavirus vaccines as he is taken off the plane by authorities .
“Once in Portland, Demarre told officers he created the disturbance so that fellow passengers would videotape him sharing his personal views,” the Justice Department wrote.
Demarre is charged with threatening to interfere with and interfering with a flight crew and attendants. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, according to US law.
Deputy Federal Public Defender Gerald Needham, Demarre’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Tuesday. Needham told a judge on Monday that the allegations were “irrelevant” to his client, according to the Oregonian.
A Delta spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The charges against Demarre are among the latest in a series of pandemic-era plane disruptions that have sparked talk of how to increase security measures on flights. Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Ed Bastian urged Attorney General Merrick Garland earlier this month to support industry efforts to create a national list that would bar those convicted of onboard incidents from traveling . Bastian wrote in a letter that such a list would not only reduce the number of future incidents involving disruptive passengers, but would also serve as “a strong symbol of the consequences of not following crew member instructions on commercial aircraft.” .
The Federal Aviation Administration said more than 70% of the thousands of unruly passenger reports last year involved people who would not comply with the federal mandate to wear face coverings.
Two American Airlines flights were forced to divert from their destination on Sunday. The incidents occurred within hours of each other. One of the flights from Los Angeles to Reagan National Airport was forced to land in Kansas City, Missouri, after a man allegedly threw a coffee maker. The man was eventually subdued, but not before he was hit in the head with the coffee maker, a passenger told The Washington Post.
The Delta incident on Friday happened about 20 minutes after takeoff. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mira R. Chernick told a judge on Monday that several people on board said they heard “a loud whistling sound as the defendant repeatedly tugged on the door.”
“This was a very dangerous breach that endangered the lives and safety of those on board this aircraft and put many of them in a frightening situation,” Chernick said.
After Demarre’s attempts to open the door triggered an alert in the cockpit, authorities said a flight attendant told him to stop pulling on the handle and directed him to the back of the plane. When he complied, he was physically overpowered.
“The man was tackled to the ground by nearby passengers,” a passenger told the Register-Guard. “One of the stewardesses was miraculously there, and she was able to close/lock the door.”
Hoover wrote that flight attendants asked four other passengers to keep an eye on Demarre and prevent the man from touching any of the other emergency exits.
Video of Demarre being escorted off the plane by police shows him shouting about vaccines.
“We are all being lied to, wake up!” He shouted. After a passenger told him to shut up, Demarre replied, “Earth is bleeding, the international community hates the United States of America.”
Many passengers are heard cheering after he gets off the plane.
Some witnesses have told authorities that Demarre may have been suffering from a mental health crisis, but that remains unclear. Demarre is on probation for a 2020 conviction for driving under the influence of intoxicants and has a separate criminal mischief conviction from last year, the Oregonian reported.
It is not the first time in recent months that a passenger has tried to open the emergency door of an aircraft. An American Airlines passenger was arrested in September after he opened a plane’s emergency exit door and jumped onto the plane’s wing as he arrived at Miami International Airport.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John V. Acosta on Monday ordered the Portland man to remain in custody until a mental health assessment can be completed. Demarre has a detention review hearing scheduled for the end of this week.