Somewhere in the heavens above Amarillo, angry shouts rang out from the back of Southwest Airlines Flight 3683.
“You’re all going to die,” a man dressed in black screamed at passengers Tuesday afternoon. “You’re all going to hell. Allahu Akbar,” translated as God is great in Arabic.
Federal authorities arrested Ali Reza Shahsavari, 29, of Indialantic, Fla., onboard the Boeing 737 after pilots made an emergency landing at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport at 3:30 p.m. He is being held in the Randall County jail on a federal charge of interfering with a flight crew.
Police said the incident began with Shahsavari arguing with another passenger. The flight crew separated the men, said Amarillo police Cpl. Jerry Neufeld.
Shahsavari went into a bathroom and yelled obscenities from the rear of the plane, said passenger Doug Oerding, of Sacramento, Calif. Attendants tried to calm Shahsavari before a female flight attendant finally succeeded in quieting him, Oerding said.
FBI Special Agent Mark White, based in Dallas, said the event did not appear to be an act of terrorism. He described Shahsavari as a U.S. citizen who might have experienced an episode of mental illness.
“It sounded like he sort of lost control of himself,” White said.
TSA agents removed Shahsavari’s luggage from the plane, searched it and turned it over to his unidentified sister, who was traveling with him, Neufeld said.
The sister stayed in Amarillo overnight, Neufeld said. He said there was a language barrier for investigators attempting to interview Shahsavari, who is of Iranian descent. Shahsavari was born in Mississippi, Neufeld said.