A Utah man has been arrested and charged after he allegedly held a razor blade to a woman’s neck during a robbery.
Merrill Darrell Fackrell, 41, was on a JetBlue flight from New York to Salt Lake City on Nov. 21 when he allegedly assaulted the passenger next to him, according to the Justice Department.
He was sitting in a window seat in a row with a married woman and man and engaging in conversation with the woman, according to a criminal complaint filed by the DOJ.
The woman started watching a movie with headphones on and said she could hear Fackrell keep talking to herself, but she wasn’t paying attention. Fackrell then put his hand in front of the screen and told him to pause the movie.
The woman alleges she took off her headphones and realized Fackrell had what appeared to be a knife placed inches from her neck, according to the DOJ.
The object was later identified as a straight razor with a one to two inch blade.
Fackrell reportedly stood up and shouted, “She’s going to be fine” and “no one has to worry.” He allegedly told the husband to “get out of there”.
The woman’s husband got up to alert a flight attendant. The woman rushed down the driveway and Fackrell tried to grab her shoulder and stop her.
Another passenger sitting across the aisle saw Fackrell holding an object, confronted him, and managed to get him to put the object he was holding onto the seat. He passed the object – which turned out to be a razor – to the flight crew for safekeeping, according to the complaint. He then sat next to Fackrell for the duration of the flight.
The alleged incident happened near the end of the flight, a JetBlue spokesperson said in a statement to CBS News.
“Crew members responded by working to de-escalate the situation and notified law enforcement who encountered the theft in Salt Lake City,” the spokesperson said. “The safety of our customers and crew members is JetBlue’s first priority, and we will support law enforcement as they investigate.”
Another passenger on the plane recorded video of Fackrell being escorted by police after landing.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed the lawsuit Nov. 22, charging Fackrell with carrying a weapon on an airplane and assault with a dangerous weapon in the United States’ special aircraft jurisdiction, according to the Justice Department.
The case is being investigated by the Salt Lake City Police Department and an FBI task force officer.
A spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said the administration is “very concerned about the number of unruly passengers who engage in disruptive behavior during the flight.”
The TSA is working with law enforcement on the case.
“We take our responsibility to keep the skies safe for the traveling public very seriously and are introducing new X-ray technology to more airports to improve our ability to better detect objects such as the one used in this incident,” the official said. spokesperson. “We commend the actions of the flight attendants and other passengers on this flight.”
In 2021, there were 5,981 reports of unruly passengers, and the FAA proposed $5 million in fines against unruly passengers last year, according to the administration.
Last year, 1,099 investigations were opened, a sharp increase from 2020, when there were 183 investigations into incidents involving unruly passengers.
This year, there have been 2,178 reports of unruly passengers, as of November 1.
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