An Orange County man has been arrested and charged by federal authorities after a video showed him allegedly punching a flight attendant in the back of the head during a flight Wednesday from Mexico to Los Angeles International Airport, according to prosecutors.
Alexander Tung Cuu Le, 33, of Westminster, has been charged with one count of interference with flight crew members and attendants, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California said in a news release Thursday.
Le was flying from San José del Cabo to LAX on Wednesday when he got out of his seat while flight attendants were in the middle of handing out food and drinks on American Airlines flight 377, prosecutors said. Le grabbed a flight attendant by the shoulder from behind and asked for coffee, then he grabbed the flight attendant by both shoulders, prosecutors said. The flight attendant pulled away and put up a defensive posture, and Le then walked to the front of the airplane, according to court documents.
He loitered near the first-class cabin and sat in an empty aisle near the wall dividing the two sides of the plane. Another flight attendant asked Le to go back to his seat, but he refused and allegedly assumed a fighting stance and closed both of his hands into a fist. The flight attendant took this as a threat, prosecutors said.
Le swung his arm at the flight attendant and missed, and that’s when the flight attendant turned around to report Le’s actions to the pilot, according to prosecutors. While their back was turned, Le rushed toward the flight attendant and punched him in the back of the head, authorities said. Several passengers witnessed the attack, and one person recorded the incident.
Le ran to the back of the plane after the incident and several passengers cornered him near an exit row. He was then moved to another row over safety concerns and his hands and legs were handcuffed. Flight attendants restrained him further with seatbelt extenders because he continued to unbuckle his seatbelt, according to prosecutors.
The flight was met by law enforcement when it arrived at LAX, American Airlines said in a statement.
“Acts of violence against our team members are not tolerated by American Airlines. The individual involved in this incident will never be allowed to travel with us in the future, and we will work closely with law enforcement in their investigation,” American Airlines said. “We thank our crew for their quick action and professionalism to ensure the safety of their fellow team members and customers on board. Our thoughts are with our injured flight attendant, and we are ensuring that they and their fellow crew members have the support they need at this time.”
Le is scheduled to appear in federal court Thursday afternoon. If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.