Thursday, March 25, 2021

Barberton police officer subdues passenger during incident on Cleveland flight diverted to Denver

CLEVELAND — A Barberton police officer who was on vacation, jumped into action when an unruly passenger allegedly tried to open the exit door during the flight. The incident happened Wednesday on a Spirit Airlines flight NK 185 from Cleveland to Los Angeles, which was diverted to Denver due to the disturbance.

Witnesses say 23-year-old Jahmir Ahmmad Williams exited a plane bathroom without a shirt on, and then tried to remove the pin and attempted to pull the armed lever on an exit door. He told federal authorities that he "wanted to kill everyone" on the aircraft," according to a federal criminal complaint. 

Officer Stephen Coburn spoke to 3News exclusively via Zoom on Sunday from his hotel room in Las Vegas to share details of the harrowing ordeal.

"It's our 6-month anniversary, and we were just trying to go on vacation," said Coburn, who was looking forward to a much-needed break with his girlfriend, Chelsea Boor, a local nurse and paramedic. But about three hours into the flight, he heard the first signs of trouble.

"I heard someone yell, 'He's trying to get out the door,' and I heard someone yell, 'Help!'" he recalled. 

That's when his police officer instincts kicked in and he ran to the back of the plane where the unruly passenger was fighting with flight attendants who were attempting to put zip-ties on his wrists.

NBC News obtained video of the struggle on board the plane, as Coburn and flight attendants wrestled with the man, who "tried to bite us, scratch us and head-butt us if he could. I got head-butted, like, three times. Once in the mouth, and twice in the head, and you can see [in the video] I kind of got the cobwebs knocked out. I got my bell rung."

Little did most passengers know that airplane doors are actually impossible to open at cruising altitude because the immense pressure against the door is more than any person can overcome.

"You don't stop to think about that in an emergency situation," Boor said. "You're thinking, oh my gosh, we have to stop this guy, or he's going to kill everyone on this plane."

Meanwhile, the plane felt like it was taking a nosedive, as it quickly descended to make the emergency landing in Denver. Once the plane landed at Denver International Airport, the other passengers exited and police and a medic boarded to speak with Williams, the complaint says.

Initially, Williams did not respond to the medic or officers and then "suddenly and violently" hit his head into the wall, according to the complaint. Due to his "agitation and combativeness," he was given a sedative.

Two flight attendants reported having sustained bruises and cuts during the altercation.

After about a four-hour delay in Denver, Coburn and Boor were back on their way to Los Angeles, and their final destination, Las Vegas, for that long-awaited break. 

He shrugged off any comments from people who are calling him a hero. To him, it's just another day on -- or off -- the job.

"The vast majority of police officers just instinctively have it in them to help," he said. "The training and experience just automatically kicks in."


A Spirit Airlines flight bound for California was diverted on Wednesday evening in Colorado after an "unruly" passenger attempted to open an emergency exit door while in mid-air.

Spirit Airlines flight 185 was traveling from Cleveland to Los Angeles when it was forced to make an emergency landing at Denver International Airport. 

Video from a passenger shows crew members and passengers restraining a shirtless man.

Video from another passenger shows the passenger being carried away in a stretcher through the airport. 

“It is important to note that opening a door inflight is impossible due to air pressure inside the cabin pinning the door against its frame with force stronger than any person could ever overcome,” Spirit Airlines said in a statement confirming the incident to OutThere Colorado. “Safety is our number one priority at Spirit Airlines. Law enforcement met the aircraft in Denver and took the passenger into custody."

No other details were immediately available regarding the identity of the passenger. 

The Federal Aviation Administration extended its zero-tolerance policy for unruly passengers last week after airlines reported more than 500 disruptive incidents since late December.

"The policy directs our safety inspectors and attorneys to take strong enforcement action against any passenger who disrupts or threatens the safety of a flight, with penalties ranging from fines to jail time," a press release from the Federal Aviation Administration reads.

Spirit Airlines went on to thank crew members and guests who assisted in handling the situation quickly. 

A Spirit Airlines flight was diverted to Denver on Wednesday after a passenger appeared to try to open an emergency exit door, officials said.

The passenger, who was not identified, was on Flight 185 from Cleveland to Los Angeles, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

An agency spokesperson described the passenger as "unruly" and said the plane landed without incident.

After arriving in Denver, law enforcement officials took the passenger into custody, Spirit said in a statement.

"It is important to note that opening a door inflight is impossible due to air pressure inside the cabin pinning the door against its frame with force stronger than any person could ever overcome," the company said in the statement.

No other details were immediately available.

Video showed a person being held down by multiple passengers and restrained with zip ties on the flight.

Another video appeared to show the same passenger being wheeled out on a gurney by paramedics in Denver. A person wearing a Transportation Security Administration jacket can also be seen in the footage.

NBC News does not know what occurred before the events shown in the videos.

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation says a 23-year-old man who assaulted and intimidated a Spirit Airlines flight attendant wanted to kill everyone on the plane.

According to an affidavit, Flight 185, which left Cleveland around 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, was diverted in Denver after an incident with a passenger. The plane was traveling to Los Angeles.

While enroute, a man reportedly attempted to open the rear exit door of the aircraft. A flight attendant tried to pull him away from the door, but he resisted.

Officials say the man then pulled the pin and tried to pull the armed lever on the door.

One flight attendant told the FBI that five people, some of whom were airline passengers, were ultimately needed to pull the suspect away from the door.

The suspect’s hands and feet were then restrained. He was reportedly moved to the back row of the aircraft before the plane landed at Denver International Airport, where he was turned over to Denver police.

No flight attendants or passengers were hurt during the incident.

According to the FBI, during an interview with investigators, the suspect said: “he wanted to kill everyone, including himself, on the aircraft” and that he wanted the interviewing agents to take him to jail. Officials say he also told the interviewing agents that he wanted to kill them and advised he would kill people if he was let out of jail.

The FBI says that based on preliminary investigation, probable cause exists to believe the suspect violated Title 49, United States Code, Section 46504 – Interference with Flight Crew Members and Attendants.

If convicted, the suspect could face 20 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine or both.


  1. 500 disruptive incidents since late December? That's 3 months!

    Why are these people ever allowed on an airplane ever again? Why don't we ever hear what happens to these "disruptive" people? If each time that happens and within each news article there was the statement that these people will never be allowed on a aircraft again there would have been 500 messages sent in the last three months. That's more than 5 messages a day. The word would get out that this BS would not be tolerated. Instead... crickets.

    1. Not exactly crickets. and

    2. Take it from someone who works on the airport side - this behavior is directly tied to fares. When fares get cheap, people that can't typically afford to fly start appearing - with all of the behaviors they sometimes bring with them.

    3. Where can I find the listing of unruly/disruptive airline passenger events? NTSB or other?? Thanks!

    4. FAA has the report listing.

  2. "Wants to fine" is "no fine". And even a "fine" isn't really a fine until it is a "collected fine". I saw the link in the article. I quoted it. I clicked it. I read it. No fines paid yet. Not exactly "cracking down on unruly travelers".

    "the FAA said it is proposing a $20,000 fine" and "The FAA said it is seeking a $12,250 penalty" is not the language of a "zero tolerance policy".

    If they were serious the FAA would make unruly passengers go through the same BS I went through for the last eleven months trying to get my 3rd class medical. Let them try and clear up a bicycle accident they had over 20 years ago where they were knocked unconscious. Good luck finding that attending ER physician. I had to go through it. Fair is fair.

  3. Drugs. Who would get the urge to fiddle with the exit door if they were not on drugs. Give that man the bill for the costs associated with aircraft diversion, police response and some calculated total for delaying each passenger. A bill, not a fine. He can make some license plates and have wages garnished after prison to pay it out.

  4. SAD STATE of SOME or as of late A LOT of HUMAN BEINGS for what ever their reason/s to behave in such a manner.

  5. What would a fine or a service/repair invoice accomplish with a destitute, non contributing member of society? Not sure why he is still conscious. He should have been choked out with a belt and then hogtied, blindfolded, and a rag stuffed in his mouth. Mental health issues and being impaired doesn't give him a pass in a case like this.

  6. Well when passengers start beating the hell out of these lunatics who lose their sh#t on a plane for whatever reason, maybe it will send a message to all the lunatics out there thinking that $39 one-way ticket is great. And yes, a commenter above it totally correct: these dirt cheap airlines bring on board what would normally be Greyhound bus and train riders. You never heard of these characters acting up like this prior to airline deregulation when on only the upper middle classes and up could afford to fly.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.