An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot, who was indicted for trying to shut-down the engines of a plane mid-flight, will not face 83 counts of attempted murder. John Emerson, 44, has been charged with one count of endangering an aircraft in the first degree and 83 counts or recklessly endangering another person. File photo by John G. Mabanglo/EPA/
Dec. 5 (UPI) -- An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot, indicted for trying to shut off the engines of a plane mid-flight, will not face 83 counts of attempted murder in Oregon.
Joseph Emerson, 44, has been charged with one count of endangering an aircraft in the first degree and 83 counts of recklessly endangering another person, the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday.
Emerson pleaded not guilty in October to initial charges of 83 counts of attempted murder for the Oct. 22 incident in which he allegedly tried to pull the Engine Fire Handles in the cockpit, as the plane traveled more than 30,000 feet in the air.
Emerson was off-duty at the time and was flying in the cockpit jump seat of the twin-jet Embraer 175 as it traveled from Everett, Wash., to San Francisco.
"The Horizon captain and first officer quickly responded, engine power was not lost and the crew secured the aircraft without incident," Alaska Airlines said in a statement.
The plane was diverted and landed safely in Portland, Ore., where Emerson was arrested. He is currently being held at the Multnomah County Detention Center in Portland and is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.
According to court documents, a pilot saw Emerson "throw his headset across the cockpit and announce, 'I am not okay' .... before allegedly grabbing the plane's engine shut-off handles."
One of the pilots told investigators that he wrestled with Emerson to stop him, adding that "it would have shut down the hydraulics and the fuel to the engines -- turning the aircraft into a glider within seconds."
Emerson told police he had not slept for 40 hours and believed he was having a nervous breakdown.
"I pulled both emergency shut-off handles because I thought I was dreaming and I just wanna wake up," Emerson told officers, according to court documents. "I was trying to wake up. I didn't fell like this was real."
Court documents show Emerson revealed he was depressed six months ago and had used psychedelic mushrooms for the first time two days before boarding the plane.
Emerson's defense team said in a statement Tuesday that he had no intention of injuring anyone.
"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; his actions were taken in a single-minded effort to wake up from that dream and return home to his family."