Flying over the busy Thanksgiving travel period is bound to be stressful, but passengers aboard one flight earlier this week had a particularly nerve-wracking time of it, thanks to a seemingly unhinged man brandishing a straight-edge razor blade.
Traveling aboard JetBlue Flight 871 from New York’s JFK Airport to Salt Lake City on Monday, an inebriated male passenger allegedly threatened the woman seated next to him, holding a straight razor he had somehow smuggled onboard inches away from her throat.
The man—41-year-old Merrill Darrell Fackrell of Syracuse, Utah—was arrested upon arriving at Salt Lake City International Airport and was charged Tuesday in a criminal federal complaint on counts of Carrying a Weapon on an Aircraft and Assault with a Dangerous Weapon, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Utah.
Authorities have yet to determine how Fackrell snuck the concealed weapon—a wood-handled straight-edge razor blade measuring between one and two inches long—through standard TSA security screenings at JFK.
Per Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations, air passengers are prohibited from bringing straight razors aboard aircraft in their carry-on luggage, allowing them to fly only in checked bags. The TSA did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s emailed inquiry about the incident this morning.
After settling into window seat 6A, Fackrell evidently struck up a conversation with the woman in the middle seat next to him, whose husband was seated next to her on the opposite side. Fackrell engaged her in a “long and varied” conversation while consuming several alcoholic drinks, according to an affidavit filed Tuesday in a Utah federal court.
When the woman decided to put on her headphones and start streaming in-flight entertainment, Fackrell reportedly continued talking to himself, though she ignored him. He then, allegedly, put his hand in front of her screen and demanded that she pause the movie.
It was then that she realized he was holding a blade (what she perceived to be a knife) just “inches” from her skin, authorities said. Fackrell told the woman’s husband—who had been wearing his own headphones all the while—to leave, as he ran to alert the flight crew.
“He was going to get help because he knew something was really off,” the woman, who chose to withhold her name, told local NBC affiliate KSL. “(My husband) was only a few steps ahead of me when I lunged into the aisle. He didn’t knowingly leave me to handle a man with a weapon all by myself.”
According to the affidavit, Fackrell then stood up and shouted, “She’s going to be okay” and “No one needs to worry.” She lunged toward the aisle as Fackrell allegedly attempted to prevent her escape, but she managed to fight him off and ran for the front of the plane.
At that point, a man seated across the aisle intervened and managed to persuade Fackrell to put down the blade, which he grabbed and turned over to the flight crew. This unnamed Good Samaritan then sat next to Fackrell for the rest of the flight.
Fackrell remained in a Utah jail after a judge denied his request to be released on bail Wednesday. According to court documents, the alleged victims are seeking a no-contact order. The case is also being investigated by Salt Lake City Police Department and an FBI Task Force Officer.
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