Federal prosecutors have charged a Tulsa man on allegations he held a knife to a child’s stomach during a Tulsa-bound flight Friday, forcing the plane to divert to Las Vegas.
A federal prosecutor in Nevada charged Fredrick James Johnson, 39, on Monday with simple assault, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday and confirmed by a U.S. District Court spokeswoman.
Johnson pulled a knife on a juvenile, who was only identified as being younger than 16, while on an Allegiant Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Tulsa, according to the court documents.
The juvenile told authorities that Johnson “was acting confused and strange during the boarding process,” FBI Special Agent Nicholas Bugni states in an affidavit. Johnson reportedly was en route to Omaha, Nebraska.
The juvenile and his adult sister told investigators that Johnson began dismantling a tablet computer and attempted to rewire it, according to the affidavit.
Johnson then allegedly brandished a knife at the juvenile, attempting to make him hold the device. The juvenile’s sister intervened, but Johnson began waving the knife around, “pointing it directly at (the child’s) abdomen,” the affidavit states.
A flight attendant reportedly was able to confiscate the knife and move Johnson to a different seat.
Chris Jones, a spokesman for McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, said the plane diverted to that city and landed.
“And upon its arrival here one passenger was removed from the aircraft and taken into custody by law enforcement agents,” Jones said in an email to the Tulsa World.
The flight resumed about three hours later, arriving in Tulsa around 9 p.m.
Annina Collier, a Tulsa resident on the flight, told Tulsa World that federal agents entered the plane with rifles to take Johnson into custody.
“I had my 1-year-old daughter in my lap, and I was crouched over her in case bullets started flying,” Collier said.
In Las Vegas, Collier said, the plane and its passengers’ belongings were searched before the flight took off for Tulsa.
The alleged knife incident happened the same day a gunman fatally shot five people and wounded six others at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport in Florida.
Officials at Los Angeles International Airport announced the same day that they had deployed additional law enforcement resources and increased the security presence in the central terminal area, the LA Times reported.