Joseph Emerson faces 83 attempted murder charges
The off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot charged with 83 counts of attempted murder after allegedly trying to shut down a plane’s engines during a flight Sunday told investigators he had taken psychedelic mushrooms prior to the incident, according to court documents reviewed by PEOPLE.
After being taken into custody, Joseph David Emerson, 44, told investigators he had consumed the mushrooms and hadn’t slept in 40 hours, a criminal complaint filed in federal court alleges.
A separate affidavit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, also reviewed by PEOPLE, said Emerson said he had taken the mushrooms 48 hours before the flight.
Emerson was sitting in the jump seat in the cockpit of an Alaska Airlines flight operated by subsidiary Horizon Air from Seattle to San Francisco when authorities say he attempted to shut off the plane’s engines by pulling the engine fire handle, which is a plane’s fire suppression system.
In his interview with investigators, Emerson said he had felt depressed and, in the cockpit said “I am not okay,” the court documents state, adding that he felt like the pilots “weren’t paying attention to what was going on.”
“I pulled both emergency shut off handles because I thought I was dreaming and I wanna wake up,” Emerson said, according to the documents.
According to the documents, Emerson said it was his first time taking mushrooms and that he thought he was having a nervous breakdown.
The documents also allege that after exiting the cockpit, Emerson walked to the back of the plane and told a flight attendant “You need to cuff me right now or it’s going to be bad.”
Another flight attendant heard Emerson say, “I messed everything up” and also that he “tried to kill everybody,” according to the complaint, which adds he allegedly admitted that he had put "84 lives at risk."
Flight attendants used wrist restraints to detain him and sat him in the rear of the plane, where he tried to open the emergency exit before a flight attendant stopped him, authorities said.
When investigators arrived on scene after the plane safely landed in Portland, Ore., Emerson told them, “I’m admitting to what I did. I’m not fighting any charges you want to bring against me, guys,” the documents claim.
Emerson has been a pilot since 2001, authorities say.
In addition to 83 felony counts of attempted murder, 83 misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment and one felony count of endangering an aircraft filed in Multnomah County court, Emerson now faces a federal charge of endangering a flight crew, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon said in a release.
According to the Multnomah County affidavit, 11 passengers on board the flight were under the age of 14.
Emerson remains in custody in Multnomah County and will face federal charges at a later date. It is unclear if he has retained an attorney. He is due in court Tuesday afternoon.
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