LEESBURG, Virginia – A Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter who allegedly tried to open the emergency door on a cross-country flight may undergo a mental health evaluation after making incoherent statements Thursday during an initial appearance in court.
Carlos Alberto de Oliveira, 43, of Porto Alegre, Brazil, spoke erratically in Portuguese during a brief hearing Thursday in Loudoun County General District Court. An interpreter was only able to convey some of de Oliveira's comments, which included multiple references to ransom and money.
Several members of the Brazilian press who attended the hearing and heard the entirety of de Oliveira's comments in Portuguese agreed that his statements were largely nonsensical. He appeared in court through a video hookup from the county jail, which is standard procedure at the courthouse.
He had been scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, but that hearing was postponed after jail guards had to place him in restraints.
De Oliveira is charged with interfering with an aircraft operation after passengers on a United Airlines flight Tuesday from Los Angeles to Washington Dulles International Airport were forced to subdue him.
Eyewitnesses said de Oliveira was acting strangely and throwing punches in the air for several minutes before reaching for the emergency door. A flight attendant yelled for help and several passengers wrestled him to the ground. An air marshal eventually took him into custody.
Public defender Lorie O'Donnell met briefly with de Oliveira after Thursday's hearing and said she will seek ask a judge to order a mental evaluation. A hearing is scheduled for Friday.
"His reality and ours don't seem to be meshing," she said.
Authorities said de Oliveira competes in jiu-jitsu competitions, and one of the passengers on the flight said de Oliveira was wearing jiu-jitsu patches and military-style clothing aboard the flight.
David Castelveter, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, which represents most U.S. airlines, said it would be impossible to open an emergency door in mid-flight because of the differences in air pressure.