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Report: Off-Duty Pilot Charged With Murder Was Suffering ‘Nervous Breakdown’ After Taking Psychedelic Mushrooms

Joseph Emerson, the 44-year-old off-duty pilot who was arrested earlier this week for 83 counts of attempted murder after trying to shut down a plane’s engine mid-flight is alleging that he had a “nervous breakdown’ during the incident on the Alaska Airlines flight.

According to court documents, Emerson reportedly had taken psychedelic mushrooms 48 hours prior to the incident and said that he was “not OK” during the flight, claiming he thought that the pilots operating the aircraft “weren’t paying attention to what was going on” and that he was feeling “depressed” and detached from reality to the point that he thought he “was dreaming.”

“I’m not fighting any charges you want to bring against me, guys,” Emerson reportedly said while in custody.


Upon Emerson’s admission, Alaska Airlines released a statement confirming that the affidavit details were consistent with what airline leadership had been told “based on debriefings with each member of the flight crew” and that Emerson has been “removed from service indefinitely” and is no longer employed by the airline.

“At no time during the check-in or boarding process did our Gate Agents or flight crew observe any signs of impairment that would have led them to prevent Emerson from flying on Flight 2059,” Alaska Airlines said.

Emerson is currently facing 83 felony counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment, and one count of endangering an aircraft.

Original story below.

Travelers on an Alaska Airlines flight faced a mid-flight nightmare after an off-duty pilot, sitting in the cockpit, tried to shut off the plane’s engine, the airline said.

Joseph Emerson, age 44, was charged with 83 felony counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment, and one count of endangering an aircraft after trying to shut down the engine on a Horizon Airlines (operated by Alaska) flight on the way to San Francisco, California from Everett, Washington. The on-duty pilot made an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon.

“We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit,” the pilot allegedly said during an air traffic control recording of the situation obtained by local outlet KATU. “He doesn’t sound like he’s causing any issue in the back right now, and I think he’s subdued. Other than that, yeah, we want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and parked.”

Emerson was reportedly sitting in the jump seat in the cockpit when the incident occurred. No one was injured during the attempted takeover.

“Following appropriate FAA procedures and guidance from air traffic control, the flight safely diverted to Portland International Airport,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement to CNN. “The event is being investigated by law enforcement authorities.”

The FBI said “there is no continuing threat related to this incident,” per CBS. There are no details on Emerson’s motivation as of press time.

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