Off-Duty Pilot Allegedly Tried Stopping Commercial Flight's Engines Mid-Air, Now Facing 83 Counts of Attempted Murder

Joseph D. Emerson had just received his airline transport pilot certificate in July.

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UPDATED 10/24, 11:45 p.m. ET: The off-duty pilot accused of attempting to turn off the engines on a plane on Sunday claims he had a nervous breakdown.

The Associated Press reports Joseph David Emerson, 44, said "I'm not OK" during the incident and later admitted to law enforcement that he ingested psychedelic mushrooms 48 hours prior to the flight. He also said he had not slept in more than 40 hours.

“The officer and Emerson talked about the use of psychedelic mushrooms and Emerson said it was his first time taking mushrooms,” the affidavit read.

Emerson told authorities, “I’m not fighting any charges you want to bring against me, guys."

Emerson was arrested Sunday after the flight crew said he attempted to shut down the engines on the flight, which took off from Everett, Washington en route to San Francisco.

See original story below.

A man has been charged with more than 80 counts of attempted murder and reckless endangerment after he allegedly tried to cut off the engines of a San Francisco-bound flight that was forced to divert to Portland on Sunday.

Joseph D. Emerson, 44, was sitting in the jump seat of the cockpit aboard Flight 2059 when he attempted to shut off fuel to the engine through the plane's fire suppression system, according to a statement from Alaska Airlines, obtained by the New York Times.

"After they are pulled, some residual fuel remains in the line, and the quick reaction of our crew to reset the handles restored fuel flow and prevented fuel starvation," the statement reads.

After takeoff, the flight, which had 80 passengers and four crew members, reported "a credible security threat related to an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot who was traveling in the flight deck jump seat." posted a recording in which one of the flight's pilots informed air traffic control that Emerson had been subdued and "doesn’t sound like he’s causing issues in the back right now."

A statement from the Port of Portland Police Department said the flight crew "was able to detain the subject and the flight landed safely at Portland International Airport just before 6:30 p.m." Emerson, who received his airline transport pilot certificate in July, was taken into custody without incident earlier today.

Retired Alaska Airlines captain Michael Jernigan told the New York Times that it was not unusual for an off-duty pilot to sit in the cockpit jump seat. Jernigan described this particular incident as "very, very strange."

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