LEOMINSTER, Mass. (AP) — The music was blaring on a February afternoon when Francisco Torres stopped by a Massachusetts barbershop, proclaiming he was half-angel, half-devil.

He wanted a dozen people today to come outdoors the shop and shoot him with an automatic weapon stored in his vehicle trunk. Ahead of any one could make sense of the request, Torres fled the shop and drove off. They under no circumstances saw a weapon and he didn’t return.

“I didn’t get what he was saying but then I realized he was speaking about a gun. I told him there are little ones in right here, why are you saying this,” mentioned Saul Perez, who was going to buddies at the shop and noted that an employee named 911, ushered youngsters into the back and shut down the shop. “I was spooked.”

The incident took location about a week ahead of Torres would be arrested for attacking a flight attendant and attempting to open the plane’s emergency door on a cross-nation United flight from Los Angeles to Boston earlier this month.

Confrontations on flights have skyrocketed considering that the pandemic began, with some altercations captured and replayed endlessly on social media.

In a video taken by a fellow passenger, Torres loudly threatens to kill people today and promises a bloodbath ahead of charging the front of the plane, exactly where a group of passengers tackled him down to the ground to restrain him.

He remains behind bars pending a mental wellness evaluation, with a judge ruling he “may presently be suffering from a mental illness or defect rendering him mentally incompetent.”

Torres objected to the evaluation via his federal public defender, Joshua Hanye, who didn’t return a contact Thursday in search of more comment. A relative for Torres would not comment on the case.

The flight attack was portion of a decadeslong pattern of Torres demonstrating indicators of a mental illness. He spent time in mental wellness facilities, according to lawsuits considering that closed that he filed in 2021 and 2022 against two hospitals in Massachusetts. Torres says he argued in one particular of the lawsuits that he was misdiagnosed for a mental illness and, in the other, that he was discriminated against for becoming vegan.

In December 2022, police confronted him at his property in Worcester County, exactly where he was outdoors in his underwear saying he was protesting climate adjust, according to a police report. On yet another occasion in 2021, police responded to a contact from his mother reporting that he was yelling “homicidal threats” out a window. He told police that he was in Globe War three and he had a particular device providing him “super sonic hearing,” which he utilized to listen to his neighbors speaking about him.

His case history demonstrates the challenges facing airlines and federal regulators when handling passengers like Torres. Specially considering that specialists say information shows these with mental illnesses are much more usually the victims of crimes than these accountable for committing violent acts.

Regardless of repeated run-ins with police, authorities mentioned that he hardly ever acted violent. He after was accused of grabbing his mother’s arm, but these charges have been dismissed. He didn’t legally personal a weapon, even even though he usually talked about guns. And there have been no indicators of difficulty when he boarded that cross-county flight final month, a passenger mentioned, or in the course of the very first 5 hours in the air.

“He is truly a nonviolent offender,” mentioned Leominster Police Chief Aaron Kennedy, who is familiar with Torres from prior run-ins. “This guy was fairly mild.”

And even if previous incidents raised red flags, specialists mentioned there is not a entire lot that airline organizations can or should really be undertaking. Airlines say they do not share banned passenger lists with each and every other, even though there have been a handful of situations so notorious that the passenger’s name became broadly recognized.

The FBI maintains a no-fly list for people today suspected of terrorism, to which particular agents and other authorized government personnel can submit names for consideration.

Men and women with mental illnesses are not prohibited from obtaining on a plane, according to Jeffrey Value, an aviation-safety professional at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Federal law offers U.S. citizens “a public proper of transit via the navigable airspace,” he mentioned.

Legislation backed by airlines and their labor unions was introduced in Congress final year to build a new no-fly list like people today who have been charged or fined for interfering with airline crews. The bills died devoid of hearings in the Senate or Residence, but backers program to re-introduce them later this month.

Various Republican senators opposed the proposal, saying it could be utilized to punish critics of the federal rule requiring passengers to put on masks — even to “equate them to terrorists.” From January 2021 to April 2022, even though the federal mask mandate was nevertheless in impact, the vast majority of unruly-passenger situations reported by airlines involved disputes more than masks, according to Federal Aviation Administration figures.

Some liberal groups also opposed the legislation, arguing that the present no-fly list of people today suspected of terrorism is opaque and unfair.

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the government various instances more than the final decade on behalf of people today who didn’t know why they have been on the list or how to be removed from it. The ACLU also has accused the FBI of placing some people today on the list to stress them to grow to be informants in counter-terrorist investigations against Muslim communities in the U.S.

The captain of an airline flight can choose not to fly with a certain passenger on board, even though flight attendants say this normally takes place when a passenger seems to be drunk.

The government runs what it calls “trusted traveler” applications such as TSA PreCheck, which lets people today who are fingerprinted and pass a background verify speed via safety devoid of removing footwear, belts, jackets and laptops from their bags. Men and women can be denied PreCheck for specific crimes, which extends to these who are discovered not guilty by cause of insanity. But of course people today who are denied PreCheck can nevertheless fly.

Adding travelers like Torres to any no-fly list or barring them from a flight raises a host of logistical and constitutional inquiries. And figuring out who would get on a list would be controversial in a nation that prides itself on safeguarding person rights and maintaining wellness details private by following strict HIPAA guidelines.

Plus, getting a “mental wellness challenge” is “not a prediction, necessarily, that someone’s going to have outbursts, have unpredictable behavior,” mentioned Lynn Bufka, a psychologist and the American Psychological Association’s associate chief of practice transformation. “That’s not going to be a great marker for figuring out irrespective of whether or not a person should really safely board.”

Ahead of Torres became agitated and threatened these about him, fellow passenger Jason Loomis mentioned he didn’t exhibit any strange behavior in the course of boarding and was quiet for the starting of the flight. Hours later even though, Loomis witnessed his outburst. Initially, he spoke with Torres to attempt to calm him down, but when Torres’ anger escalated, Loomis joined other passengers in restraining him.

Nonetheless, Loomis mentioned he couldn’t envision maintaining Torres off the flight in the very first location. Rather, he mentioned it was a reminder that society desires to take improved care of mentally ill people today.

“I know there has been a lot of speak about airplane safety and security these days, but this was a really uncommon occurrence,” Loomis mentioned. “It wasn’t like he was shouting in the airport. He wasn’t threatening something. He was completely fine and then some thing just snapped.”

By Editor