Man who disrupted flight had history of robbery, assault, resisting judgment :: WRAL.com

— A federal complaint has been filed against Michael Ganter, who the FBI has named as the man who became aggressive during a Feb. 9 flight to Orlando that had to be diverted to Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

The criminal complaint, which was filed the day after the flight, states that Ganter “knowingly interfered” with flight attendants’ duties, “threatening those around him with injury and death.”

The document reads in part that the defendant was “assaulting and intimidating the flight crew members and flight attendants … requiring others to restrain him.”

He has been in custody in Raleigh since that time, being held without bond with his next court appearance scheduled for Friday.

Ganter, 37, who is also known as Michael Aaron Bennett, has a long criminal history in Illinois, where he has served time in jail on convictions including for robbery, aggravated battery, theft and resisting judgment. He was most recently convicted of aggravated assault in May 2017 for a crime that happened in August 2014.

Frontier flight 1335, which had left LaGuardia Airport in New York and was on its way to Orlando International Airport, was diverted to Raleigh-Durham International Airport around 8:15 pm on Feb. 9.

The complaint document provides more details about the encounter, stating Ganter, who was seated in seat 2A, “began making concerning statements to other passengers on the aircraft approximately an hour into the flight after he woke up from sleeping.”

According to one passenger, Ganter complained that he has been stuck with needles and that his DNA was being collected.

The FBI report goes on to describe more claims from witnesses, who said Ganter “stated he was from the Indian tribe ‘Slapahoe’ and that he was going to slap people and beat them to death.”

Ganter threatened a small child and the child’s mother, who were seated in the row behind him, threatening to kill the child and beat the child’s mother in front of the child, the report states.

Passengers who spoke to WRAL News immediately after the plane landed described something similar.

†[The man] was really loud and obnoxious from the beginning,” said Savannah Figueroa, who was on the flight. “The passenger that was sitting behind him was a lady and her autistic son … so I guess he kept getting poked and touched from behind, and he started freaking out and claiming that, ‘these people keep putting hands on me, they’re trying to stick me with needles, they’re trying to collect my DNA. I don’t know what they want to do with it — maybe for money or maybe to sell it.’ He’s like, I don’t care if it’s a lady and her kid, I’ll smack them both. I don’t care who it is. I’ll put my hands on anybody on this plane ,”

Video taken on the flight shows flight attendants blocking the cockpit doors as passengers help restrain the man. Figueroa said multiple men, including a passenger who was a police officer, took off their belts to try to restrain the man with them.

“I guess they were nervous that he was going to try to rush the pilot and take the whole plane down,” Figueroa said.

The man being restrained could be heard screaming as passengers used what appeared to be zip ties.

“My ACL is torn — you can’t do this,” the man yelled in the video.

Figueroa told WRAL News that the man tried to break a window.

Figueroa said the flight remained in the air for an hour after the man began yelling and acting disruptive.

“I looked at my phone and I was like, I wish I could text people right now a final message if it were to come down to it, but they don’t have WiFi on that plane so I was basically a sitting duck,” she said.

After Ganter was taken into custody, the Frontier flight resumed its trip to Orlando and finally landed there at 11:17 pm

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