A 41-year-old man from Syracuse, Utah, has been arrested and is facing federal charges after authorities said he brought a straight razor onto a flight and threatened a woman with it.
Merrill Fackrell has been charged in U.S. District Court with carrying a weapon on an aircraft and assault with a dangerous weapon on a plane, according to court documents.
On Monday, during a JetBlue flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to Salt Lake City International Airport, Fackrell was seated in a window seat next to a married man and woman, the criminal complaint states. The wife sat in the middle seat, while the husband sat in the aisle seat.
During the flight, Fackrell had several alcoholic beverages while he talked with the wife, the complaint states. Later, the husband got up to use the restroom and his wife followed him.
When the couple returned to their seats, the wife put on headphones to watch a movie, the complaint states. She could hear Fackrell continue to talk to himself, but she ignored him.
Suddenly, Fackrell put his hand in front of the woman’s screen and told her to pause the movie, the complaint states.
When she took off her headphones, she saw that Fackrell was holding a straight razor with a 1- to 2-inch blade close to her throat.
Fackrell then stood up and started yelling that, “She’s going to be OK,” and, “No one needs to worry,” the complaint states. He told the husband to leave.
As the husband went to the front of the plane to get help from a flight attendant, the wife “lunged for the aisle to escape,” the complaint states.
Fackrell grabbed her shoulder, but she was able to get away from him and run toward the front of the plane.
A nearby passenger who saw what happened confronted Fackrell and was able to get him to put the razor down, the complaint states. The passenger grabbed the razor and gave it to the flight crew, then sat next to Fackrell for the rest of the flight.
Fackrell appeared in federal court in Utah on Wednesday for his initial appearance.
It is unclear how Fackrell apparently got a razor on board. In a statement, a Transportation Security Administration spokesperson said the agency is “working closely with the U.S. attorney’s office, the FBI and the Salt Lake City Police Department on this case.”
“We take our responsibility to secure the skies for the traveling public very seriously and are introducing new X-ray technology at more airports to improve our capability to better detect items such as the one used in this incident,” the spokesperson continued. “We commend the actions of the flight attendants and other passengers on this flight.”
On Nov. 11, a commercial flight from Cincinnati to Tampa was diverted to Atlanta after a passenger threatened other passengers with a box cutter, The Associated Press reported. Authorities later found a second box cutter in his belongings.