Alaska Airlines pilot who tried to cut engines told police he thought he was dreaming – Court documents show he’d taken psychedelic mushrooms “recently”

Probably not the best idea to let pilots do self administered psilocybin therapy!

The Guardian reports

An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot who tried to cut the engines on a regional jet mid-flight on Sunday told police after his arrest that he believed he was having a nervous breakdown, thought he was dreaming when he pulled fire handles in the cockpit, and that he had experimented with psychedelic mushrooms recently as his mental health worsened, according to a federal complaint made public on Tuesday.

Just before trying to cut the engines, Joseph David Emerson, 44, who was riding in an extra seat in the cockpit said: “I’m not OK” and later told police he had recently taken psychedelic mushrooms, according to charging documents.

State prosecutors in Oregon filed 83 counts of attempted murder against Emerson on Tuesday just before he appeared in court, with his attorney, Noah Horst, entering not guilty pleas on his behalf. Federal prosecutors meanwhile charged Emerson with interfering with a flight crew, which can carry up to 20 years in prison.

Emerson, of Pleasant Hill, California, was initially arrested in Oregon on Sunday night on state counts of attempted murder after the flight crew reported his attempt to shut down the engines on a flight from Washington state to California. The plane was diverted to Portland, where it landed safely with more than 80 people onboard.

Emerson, who as an off-duty pilot was authorized to ride in the cockpit’s jump seat, made casual conversation with the captain and first officer when the plane was between Astoria, Oregon, and Portland, before trying to grab two red handles that would have activated the plane’s fire-suppression system and cut off fuel to its engines, according to the federal complaint.

After what the flight crew described as a brief struggle, lasting only about 30 seconds, Emerson left the cockpit, the FBI said.

Flight attendants placed Emerson in wrist restraints and seated him in the rear of the aircraft, but as the plane descended, he tried to grab the handle of an emergency exit, according to the document. A flight attendant stopped him by placing her hands on top of his, it said.

The Associated Press has been unable to contact Emerson’s family or others who might speak on his behalf.

According to a probable cause statement filed in Multnomah county circuit court, Emerson told Port of Portland police following his arrest that he had been struggling with depression, that a friend had recently died and that he had taken psychedelic mushrooms about 48 hours before he attempted to cut the engines. He also said he had not slept in more than 40 hours, according to the document.

Police reported that Emerson did not appear to be intoxicated at the time of the interview, and in a statement Tuesday, Alaska Airlines said neither the gate agents nor the flight crew noticed any signs of impairment that might have barred him from the flight. An FBI agent wrote in a probable cause affidavit in support of the federal charge that Emerson “said it was his first-time taking mushrooms”.

The captain and first officer told police that after Emerson said: “I’m not OK” he reached up to pull the handles, and they were able to stop him before he pulled the handles all the way down, the affidavit said.

Emerson walked calmly to the back of the plane after being told to leave the cockpit and told a flight attendant: “You need to cuff me right now or it’s going to be bad,” according to the affidavit. Another flight attendant heard him saying: “I messed everything up” and “tried to kill everybody”.

According to the affidavit, Emerson asked police whether he could waive his right to an attorney: “I’m admitting to what I did. I’m not fighting any charges you want to bring against me, guys.”

He also told them: “I pulled both emergency shut-off handles because I thought I was dreaming and I just wanna wake up,.”

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