Federal authorities have arrested and charged an Orange County man after video showed him allegedly punching a flight attendant in the head on a flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday.
Alexander Tung Cuu Le, 33, of Westminster, was charged with interfering with flight crew members and attendants, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a news release Thursday.
Le was flying from San José del Cabo to LAX on Wednesday when he got up from his seat while flight attendants were handing out food and drinks on American Airlines Flight 377, prosecutors said. Le grabbed the flight attendant by the shoulder from behind and asked for coffee, then grabbed the flight attendant by both shoulders, prosecutors said. The flight attendant pulled away and took a defensive position, and Le then walked to the front of the plane, according to court documents.
He was lounging near the first class cabin and sitting in an empty aisle near the wall separating the two sides of the plane. Another flight attendant asked Le to go back to his seat, but he refused and allegedly took a fighting stance, closing both hands into fists. The flight attendant took it as a threat, the prosecutor said.
Le waved at the flight attendant and missed, and that’s when the flight attendant turned around to report Le’s actions to the pilot, according to prosecutors. With their backs turned, Le lunged at the flight attendant and punched her in the head, authorities said. The attack was witnessed by several passengers and one person recorded the incident.
Le ran to the back of the plane after the incident and was cornered by several passengers near the exit row. He was then moved to another row due to safety concerns and his hands and feet were shackled. Flight attendants further restrained him with seat belt extenders as he continued to unbuckle the seat belt, according to prosecutors.
The flight was met by law enforcement when it arrived at LAX, American Airlines said in a statement.
“American Airlines does not tolerate acts of violence against our crew members. The person involved in this incident will not be allowed to travel with us again in the future and we are working closely with law enforcement in their investigation,” American Airlines said. “We thank our team for their prompt action and professionalism to ensure the safety of our teammates and customers on board. Our thoughts are with our injured flight attendants and we are making sure they and their crew members have the support they need at this time.
Le will appear in federal court Thursday afternoon. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.