The man who opened a plane's door before takeoff at LaGaurdia Airport and slid down the emergency slide along with a woman and a puppy had been acting very erratically in the moments leading up to his escape, according to the criminal complaint.
Antonio Murdock and Brianna Greco were passengers on Delta Flight 462 to Atlanta just after 10 a.m. Monday, when a flight attendant saw them walking around in the plane's cabin as it was taxiing, the criminal complaint read. She heard Murdock say that he needed to get off the plan, threatening to open the emergency door in order to do so, and that he was going to "spazz out."
Murdock, of Lakeworth, Florida, then pushed past the attendant who tried to talk with him, then opened the emergency door — triggering the slide to inflate and deploy, according to the complaint. Witnesses also on board reported seeing the agitated-looking force open a cabin door. He picked up the Great Dane puppy and slid down the slide, followed by Greco.
Passenger Brian Plummer told The New York Times that before they exited, the pair changed seats several times on a flight that wasn't full. The man finally stood up and ignored a flight attendant’s order to take a seat for takeoff, Plummer said.
The man told the flight attendant that he couldn't sit still because of his post-traumatic stress disorder, Plummer added.
The pair and the dog then could be seen on surveillance video walking away from the airplane on the tarmac, in a restricted section of the taxiway. Port Authority police were able to apprehend both Murdock and Greco shortly after.
Murdock faces charges of second-degree criminal mischief and reckless endangerment, as well as third-degree criminal trespassing. He was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Queens Criminal Court, and was released without bail. He is next scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 9. Greco was released with a desk appearance ticket.
Outside court, Murdock said he was having a panic attack, the New York Post reported.
“I asked them three or four times to let me off,” he said. “They said they were stopping the plane and they never stopped the plane, and I got to the point where I was just feeling dizzy. I didn’t even know there was a slot to go down the slide. I just thought it was a regular door.”
The stunt forced the plane to return to the gate, where the other customers on board got off (this time, the normal way) and were put on other flights.
Maintenance technicians later evaluated the Airbus A321, which was scheduled to return to service later in the night. A maintenance worker said that once the emergency slide is deployed, it has to be replaced, which costs more than $50,000.
The incident was mildly reminiscent of the 2010 case of Steven Slater, a JetBlue flight attendant who activated a chute during a tantrum on a plane landing at Kennedy Airport. He went on the public address system, swore at a passenger who he claimed treated him rudely, grabbed a beer and slid down onto the tarmac.
Slater was sentenced to a year of probation after completing a court-ordered treatment program.