LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/CW69 News at 10) — A Delta Air Lines flight bound for Los Angeles was forced to make an emergency landing in Oklahoma City Thursday night after a male passenger assaulted a flight attendant and an air marshal, authorities said.
The passenger, identified by police as 35-year-old Ariel Pennington of Washington, D.C., was booked into the Oklahoma City Jail on complaints of disorderly conduct and public drunkenness. The investigation is ongoing, and he could potentially face federal charges, however.
According to the Oklahoma City Police Department, Delta flight No. 342 from Washington D.C. to L.A. International Airport was diverted to Will Rogers World Airport at around 8:40 p.m. Eastern time.
According to police, the flight’s captain said Pennington became combative and assaulted a flight attendant. When a federal air marshal tried to intervene, Pennington assaulted the marshal as well, police said. The marshal eventually got Pennington into custody and the plane landed in Oklahoma City, where he was taken into custody. The flight attendant and air marshal were not seriously hurt. It’s unclear what precipitated the assaults.
The flight later departed Oklahoma City and arrived at LAX at about 1:20 a.m. Eastern time on Friday, according to FlightAware.
“Delta applauds the quick action and professionalism of the crew and federal air marshals on Delta flight 342 from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, which diverted to Oklahoma City after a customer became unruly and was removed from the flight by local law enforcement,” the Atlanta-based airline said in a statement. “We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience.”
In early November, the Federal Aviation Administration reported nearly 5,000 incidents of unruly passengers so far in 2021, a large portion of which were due to mask regulations. The FAA had turned 37 of those over to the FBI, as the FAA does not have the power to prosecute criminal cases.