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Flight attendant strikes unruly passenger on head with coffee pot in struggle to restrain him

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. >> An American Airlines plane was diverted to Kansas City, Missouri, when a large, unruly passenger tried to force open a door before he was subdued by a coffee pot across the head, a punch to the jaw and zip ties and duct tape, according to a federal affidavit released today.

The incident happened Sunday afternoon on American Airlines flight 1775, which was heading from Los Angeles to Washington. The plane landed safely at Kansas City International Airport and the suspect, 50-year-old Juan Remberto Rivas, was taken into custody.

Rivas was charged today with one count of interference with a flight attendant. A detention hearing is pending but has not yet been scheduled, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas City said in a news release. It wasn’t immediately clear if Rivas had an attorney.

A federal affidavit spelled out the harrowing details.

Rivas was allegedly creating a disturbance and walked to the cockpit area, grabbing plastic silverware and holding it “like a shank.” The affidavit said he then grabbed a small champagne bottle by the neck and tried to break it on the counter, before kicking and shoving a service cart into one of the flight attendants.

The affidavit said Rivas, who is about 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, grabbed the handle of an exit door and began pulling the handle. A flight attendant tried to stop him by hitting him twice in the head with a coffee pot. Meanwhile, several passengers came forward to help, the affidavit stated.

One of the passengers was a police officer who was able to pull Rivas away from the door, the affidavit stated. Another passenger punched Rivas in the jaw and a third grabbed his neck and pulled him to the floor. Passengers and flight attendants restrained Rivas until they could secure his hands and feet with zip ties and duct tape, the affidavit stated.

Rivas was treated for a laceration to his head, the news release said.

In audio captured by, the Kansas City Star reported that the pilot told air traffic controllers that four passengers helped to contain the unruly passenger.

The flight, which had originated at Los Angeles International Airport, later continued on to Reagan National Airport.

“We’re grateful to our crew members, who are consistently dedicated to the safety and care of our customers and who handled the circumstances with the utmost skill and professionalism,” American Airlines said in a statement.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants said on Twitter that the passenger attempted to open a forward passenger door and it marked “another dangerous, life-threatening incident” on a plane. It said passengers subdued the person before the plane landed.

“This violent behavior must stop,” the union said.

The incident comes amid a surge in unruly airline passengers over the past year or so — including some who become violent. Earlier this month, Delta Air Lines told the U.S. Department of Justice that any person convicted of a disruption onboard a flight should be added to the national “no fly” list.

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