One of the two passengers who exited a Delta flight with their dog as the plane taxied onto a runway felt he needed to leave or he would lose control, according to statements during an arraignment Tuesday.
The two passengers and the dog were aboard an Atlanta-bound flight at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Monday, when at least one of the passengers opened a cabin door and activated the slide to exit the plane shortly before takeoff.
Antonio Murdock, 31, and Brianna Greco, 23, of Florida, each face charges of third-degree criminal trespass, according to Lenis Valens, a spokeswoman for Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Murdock was additionally charged with second-degree criminal mischief and second-degree reckless endangerment, Valens said.
During Murdock’s arraignment at New York City Criminal Court in Queens on Tuesday, authorities said a flight attendant who was on the plane during the incident told them she observed a male and female passenger walking through the plane.
According to the flight attendant’s statement, she allegedly heard the male passenger, identified by authorities as Murdock, essentially say, “I need to get off the plane, I don’t want to sit here, I’m gonna pop the door.”
Murdock then allegedly pushed past the flight attendant and opened a door marked “emergency exit,” which caused the attached slide to deploy and inflate. The man then picked up his dog and exited using the slide, according to the statement.
The female passenger, identified as Greco during the arraignment, allegedly followed Murdock down the slide. The pair and the dog then walked away from the plane onto the taxiway.
Authorities later apprehended them in a restricted taxiway area, as stated during the arraignment.
The flight attendant informed authorities that there was no situation on the plane that necessitated Murdock to open the emergency door, according to arraignment proceedings.
Jubril Oladiran, an attorney for Murdock, provided no comment to CNN when contacted. CNN is attempting to reach Greco for comment, and it is unclear if she has legal representation.
Casey Johnson, a Manhattan resident flying home to his family in Panama City Beach, Florida, told CNN he switched seats with the couple and their dog at the gate.
Johnson said the couple was pleasant and nothing appeared out of the ordinary to him during their interaction.
He called the man, identified by authorities as Murdock, “soft spoken.”
Murdock asked to switch rows with Johnson, he said, so they could have the last aisle of the plane to accommodate their dog.
The plane was mostly full except for middle seats left open per Delta’s Covid-19 policy. Minutes later, however, the couple moved again several rows forward, Johnson said.
“I do actually remember thinking, ‘Well, you guys just asked me to swap rows with you because you wanted to be in the back, and now all of a sudden you decided you want to be forward,’ ” he said.
Johnson, who was wearing headphones as the plane taxied to the tarmac, later noticed a commotion.
“And the next thing I know, I look up while we’re moving, and I just see … I see lots of people standing up, and I see like four people running towards the front of the plane. And at this point those must have been passengers that were running to try to, like, stop the person,” Johnson said, noting he didn’t witness the pair and the dog as they jumped off the plane, yet did see that the emergency exit at the front of the plane near the cockpit was open.
Johnson said the pilot told passengers over the cabin speakers that the slide had been deployed and the door was opened, but did not state that passengers had fled.
Johnson said the plane sat on the tarmac for more than an hour before returning to the gate.
After Murdock and Greco exited the plane, the aircraft returned to the gate and deplaned customers normally, Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said.
The airline was able to accommodate the remaining passengers on alternate flights, he said.
“Maintenance technicians have evaluated the aircraft, and (it) is scheduled to return to service this evening,” Durrant said. He said Delta was unable to offer further comment.
Murdock is due to return to court on February 9, and Greco is scheduled to appear in court March 21, the Queens District Attorney’s Office said.
Valens, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokeswoman, said the dog accompanying the two was taken to a Brooklyn animal shelter.
Greco was provided a receipt to retrieve the dog, Valens said.
In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the incident and arrests and referred additional questions to Delta and local authorities.