Watch armed cops storm commercial jet
(CNN) — The 25-year-old airline passenger whose dramatic arrest by a SWAT team was captured by a cell phone was due in court Saturday.
Ali Shahi — who was jailed on charges of endangering the safety of an aircraft a day earlier — is scheduled for a bail hearing in the Ontario city of Brampton.
A cell phone video from Friday shows at least a half-dozen heavily armed authorities storming onto an airplane while shouting at passengers to get their hands up.
The incident occurred onboard a Sunwing Airlines charter flight on the tarmac at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport — the same place flight 772 to Panama City had taken off from earlier that morning.
The airline said the flight was forced to return about 45 minutes in after Shahi, a Canadian citizen, made a “direct threat against the aircraft.”
The Boeing 737 — which at that point was high above West Virginia — was escorted back to Toronto by two U.S. fighter jets that were on an aerial training drill nearby, NORAD spokeswoman Capt. Jennifer Stadnyk told CNN.
Witnesses told Canada’s CTV news that Shahi said he wanted to bomb Canada, but his father told CNN his son is mentally ill, and did not mean what he said.
“Ali thinks life is a game,” said Sadegh Shahi, who also said his son has never gotten the support he’s needed. “We’ve called the cops 24 times in the past year on him. We’ve begged police for help, but they never do anything. They always send him back home.”
The elder Shahi said his son is a friendless, unemployed gambling addict who has suffered from depression and eating disorders for a decade. “In high school he was fat,” he said. “He was bullied until he became anorexic.”
When he heard reports about a passenger on Sunwing 772, he said he thought “that’s probably my son.” But Shahi insists that his son is not violent.
The ordeal for flight 772’s passengers did not end there.
After taking off from Toronto, the flight was diverted again, this time to Jamaica for a medical emergency, according to Sunwing spokeswoman Janine Chapman. Eventually, the plane arrived at its intended destination — Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport — at 9:41 p.m. local time, nearly 12 hours behind schedule, said Chapman.