The man was charged with interference with a flight crew and simple assault

By Emily Zauzmer
October 23, 2018 08:22 PM
Credit: Getty

An undesired game of footsie escalated into an emergency landing on a recent Southwest Airlines flight.

Justin Riley Brafford, a 29-year-old Texan, allegedly harassed a woman on a flight from Los Angeles heading to Dallas on Oct. 16.

The criminal complaint says that Brafford was in the middle seat and the woman was in the aisle seat when he “began to lean closer to her seat with his arm over her arm rest and on her leg.” She said that Brafford “began ‘playing footsies’ with her and almost kicked her, trying to get her attention.”

Brafford reportedly “began to pull on her sweater” and pose invasive questions. He asked “if she would go out with him” and whispered, “Don’t f— with me.”

After the woman moved seats, Brafford located her and came up to her again. When the flight attendant confronted him, he began yelling. The flight attendant said that Brafford went from “zero to 60 in nano-seconds.”

The pilot made an unplanned stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and flight attendants prepared restraints that they did not end up using.

Southwest Airlines jet
| Credit: Shutterstock

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Brafford, who first appeared in court the next day, was charged with interference with a flight crew and simple assault, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of New Mexico. The former can lead to up to 20 years of jail time and a $250,000 fine. The latter can warrant up to one year of jail time and a $100,000 fine.

Brafford said that he “believed she may have been flirting with him” and that he “may have misread the situation,” the criminal complaint says. The complaint continues, “According to Brafford, he had used methamphetamines the day before his flight and had overdosed on heroin on October 13, 2018.”

He also stated that “God was talking to him” on the plane.

“The Captain of Flight 859 on Tuesday [Oct. 16] from Los Angeles to Dallas elected to divert to Albuquerque where local law enforcement met the aircraft following reports of an unruly customer,” a Southwest representative told PEOPLE. “Once the customer was removed, the flight continued to Dallas Love Field.”

“The Safety and comfort of everyone onboard every flight is our highest concern,” the rep added.