UC Davis Med Center orthopedic resident Dr. Scott Porter joined several other passengers in restraining a man after he pushed past flight attendants in an attempt to open the exit door of a Southwest airliner headed to Sacramento from Chicago on Sunday.
The US Attorney’s Office in Omaha are preparing to file charges against 23-year-old Joshua Carl Lee Suggs for interfering with a flight crew. The charges could get him 20 years behind bars.
Porter initially thought the cries for help from the attendants were the result of medical emergency. Then he realized it was more.
“You hear a stewardess call for help on a plane and everybody’s thinking ‘terrorist’ so there were screams,” said Porter.
It was all Porter and two other passengers could do to restrain Suggs who fought them furiously.
“He did not relent the whole time. Once we had him on the ground, we put him in a full nelson, put his hands behind his back and were able to hold him there until we could get some zip ties and tie him up,” Porter said.
Suggs is listed as a Sacramento resident, but has lived in the Chicago area until recently. The Kendall County Sheriff’s Department said he has a long criminal history. They are mostly misdemeanor charges of unruly conduct, trespassing, domestic violence, disorderly conduct and pot related crimes. But Porter suspected that a more powerful drug might have been in play on the plane.
“He wasn’t making a lot of sense. His pupils were dilated, I don’t know what kind of drug he was on. I suspect he had some baseline psychosis or was on enough drugs that he was psychotic at that time,” Porter said.
It was highly unlikely that Suggs would have been able to open the exit door. The pressure in the cabin puts a huge amount of force that acts to seal the door shut. But Porter and others didn’t know if Suggs had a bomb, gun or knife.
Porter had reason to be nervous about what Suggs was up to. He just co-founded a company called ResQ Medical which an app that tracks the hours that medical residents work. He was also thinking of his wife and two kids during the emergency.
“I just knew if it was a terrorist the only way I was going to get back to them was to take the matter in my own hands,” Porter said.
Passengers say they are happy that Porter and the others did just that.