Man detained after trying to open plane's door

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A flight from Los Angeles to Florida was diverted to Albuquerque early Friday after a passenger sprayed the first-class cabin with a water bottle, tried to open a cabin door and threatened to blow up the aircraft.

Crew members and passengers on Delta Air Lines flight 2148 to Tampa, Fla., subdued Stanley Dwayne Sheffield, 46. He was taken into federal custody after the plane landed at 1:30 a.m. Friday.

"There wasn't time to think, just react. When somebody says they're going to blow up the plane, there's no fooling around," said Tampa Bay Rays broadcaster and former major league manager Kevin Kennedy, who was among a group of eight men that subdued Sheffield.

Kennedy was asleep when the ruckus awoke him, he told reporters before Tampa Bay's baseball game Friday night against Toronto.

"Then I hear in loud voices some guy talking about Satan and death. I can hear the flight attendant, a lady who was a little bit nervous. It woke me up and I was wide awake immediately. I see this guy and he was crossing himself and flipping water around, talking about Satan. As I looked around, other guys (in first class) were kind of waking up," he said.

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Darrin Jones said authorities do not believe the incident was related to terrorism.

Sheffield, whose hometown in Florida wasn't disclosed by investigators, was charged with interference with flight crew members and destruction of aircraft.

Sheffield made an initial appearance Friday before U.S. Magistrate Richard Puglisi, who scheduled preliminary and detention hearings for Monday. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chuck Barth said Sheffield remained jailed in Albuquerque.

According to a criminal complaint, the incident began 90 minutes after takeoff when a flight attendant noticed Sheffield, seated in first class, was awake and asked if he needed anything.

Sheffield did not respond.

The flight attendant asked again 15 minutes later, again with no response.

Sheffield then went to a lavatory and, while returning, grabbed a 2-liter water bottle from a drink cart and sprayed other passengers.

"Get behind me, Satan," Sheffield told the flight attendant.

When flight attendants asked Sheffield to return to his seat, he refused, then tried to open the aircraft's main door while making threats about blowing up the airplane.

"I am going to bring this plane down," Sheffield said. The complaint said he also shouted: "You need to land this plane or I'm going to blow it up" and, "I will blow up this plane and take you all with me." He then approached the cockpit door, again shouting, "Get behind me, Satan."

Kennedy said everyone reacted differently.

"The guy next to me, he was saying 'Hey buddy, let's calm down here.' We tried to talk him down but it wasn't happening. It was actually getting worse. He started to get into the bomb thing, saying we're going to go to Hell with him," he said.

Kennedy and the seven other passengers struggled with Sheffield and tied him up with seat belt extenders and nylon hand restraints. Sheffield broke a belt and a pair of plastic handcuffs put on him after being subdued, so extra seat belts were used to help tie him down, Kennedy said.

"He was strong. We were all there in case, for some reason, this guy broke through (again). It was the real deal," he said.

The flight to Tampa resumed at 4 a.m.

Susan Elliott, a spokeswoman at Delta's headquarters in Atlanta, said the aircraft, an Airbus A320, and its 100 passengers and seven crew members never were in jeopardy.

"It is impossible to open a cabin door during flight because of the pressurization of the aircraft," she said.

Kennedy said a conversation he had with the passenger next to him even before the flight left LA turned out to be foretelling.

"We actually talked about being aware of this kind of stuff. That's what is eerie about it. We talked about it," he said.


Associated Press freelance writer Mark Didtler in St. Petersburg, Fla., contributed to this report.