ST. LOUIS • A man accused of trying to open the door of a passenger jet while it was thousands of feet in the air on Mother's Day wanted to leap from the plane and "end his life," according to an affidavit filed in federal court here.
A prosecutor in a hearing Monday said the defendant, Reynel C. Alcaide, 34, had tried to commit suicide before.
After being arrested May 8 at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, Alcaide told police and federal agents that he was not concerned about the danger to passengers or crew, FBI Special Agent Stephen Baughn wrote in the affidavit.
Charges filed May 9 accuse Alcaide of a crime involving an aircraft and interfering with a flight crew. In the hearing, a judge postponed a decision on setting bail and ordered a psychiatric examination of Alcaide, who lives in Burbank, Ill., near Chicago.
Alcaide was on a Continental flight bound for Chicago from Houston, Baughn wrote, when he got out of his seat and rushed to the front of the plane. A flight attendant tried to stop him, but he pushed past her and pinned her against part of the plane as he repeatedly pulled the lever to open the door. The affidavit said he was subdued by passengers. The plane was diverted to St. Louis.
Opening a door of a plane could cause serious consequences, but officials said the plane's design made it impossible to do so in flight.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Drake said in court Monday that Alcaide had been returning from a trip outside the country to visit family. Alcaide reportedly told interviewers that he was having marital problems and planned to move out of the home he shared with his wife, upon her return to the country this week.
Alcaide also said that he had tried to commit suicide before, by trying to drive his car into another vehicle, Drake said.
Alcaide is from Mexico and is a legal permanent resident who works for a cellphone company, according to court records and testimony.
Drake asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Terry Adelman to order a psychiatric evaluation and to hold Alcaide in jail until his trial, because of his lack of regard for safety of others while trying to end his own life.
Alcaide's public defender, Felicia Jones, asked Adelman to release Alcaide on bond, saying relatives would help him out.
"Unfortunately, it hasn't done much good so far," Adelman interrupted, citing a report that Alcaide refused to take his medication or see a psychiatrist.
Jones then asked that Alcaide be treated in a hospital setting rather than jail. Adelman said he would order the exam but would decide later about bond.
After the hearing, Alcaide's brother and a family friend declined to comment.
Alcaide briefly disappeared from public view after his arrest. Although he was charged May 9, he was not immediately arrested, and his name did not appear on state or federal court records.
Airport police and the airport spokesman did not return calls for comment last week, but a May 11 federal court filing shows that Alcaide was taken to a psychiatric facility in Bridgeton.
Missouri law enforcement officers can commit someone to a mental health facility for up to four days by filling out a form and affidavit indicating that the officer believes the person has a mental disorder and may harm himself or others. A court hearing is required for a longer stay.