Psilocybin can lead to hallucinations and paranoia, according to the National Institutes of Health, but some studies have documented potential mental health benefits. Several jurisdictions, including the state of Oregon and DC, have decriminalized psychedelic mushrooms, but they remain illegal under federal law, including on airplanes.
On the United flight to Dulles, Sevilla was in seat 29C, and the father and daughter sitting next to him could tell he “wasn’t right,” according to the affidavit. About an hour into the flight, he grabbed the arm of his daughter, who was sitting in seat 29B.
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The father and daughter were moved to other seats, but Sevilla’s erratic behavior was just beginning, according to the affidavit. He soon began “running up and down the aisle, clapping loudly near the cockpit and yelling obscenities,” Markley wrote. Sevilla opened a locked bathroom while another passenger was inside and broke a “small piece of plastic” off the door, he added.
He also “got in other passengers’ faces — staring and smiling at them,” and refused flight attendants’ requests that he stay seated instead of lying on the floor, according to the affidavit.
When the flight attendants continued to ask him to take a seat, Sevilla jumped up and attacked one of them, “grabbing and twisting” her breast, Markley wrote. Other flight attendants and passengers, including a police officer who was on board, jumped in to help.
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Law enforcement was able to get a handcuff around Sevilla’s right wrist, but he continued to struggle and twisted another flight attendant’s arm, according to the affidavit. Several people fought to subdue Sevilla and finally got the second handcuff on his left wrist.
The law enforcement officer and the other flight attendant guarded Sevilla, who “continued to scream and yell incoherent things for the rest of the flight,” Markley wrote. As a result of Sevilla’s actions, the flight attendant who was attacked was left with bruises on her chest and lasting pain, while the other flight attendant was unable to perform her normal duties for half of the flight, he added.
During an interview several hours later, Sevilla admitted to ingesting psilocybin, known as “magic” mushrooms, while at the Miami airport. He told FBI agents that it was not the first time he had taken the drug and apologized for his actions, acknowledging that he was “not at all surprised that he acted this way after taking it, Markley wrote.
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Sevilla was released on his own recognizance Oct. 5, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday in Alexandria, Va., on charges of assault and disturbing a flight crew. His public defender, Shannon Quill, declined to comment, citing office policy.
United said in a statement that the airline appreciated its crew members “handling this difficult situation with professionalism” and that it followed up with employees to make sure they were okay after the passenger was removed.
After a spike in the early years of the pandemic, unruly passenger incidents on flights have fallen in 2022, particularly after the mask mandate on public transport ended in April. Still, flight attendants continue to experience violence from the flying public, most recently when a passenger punched an American Airlines flight attendant in the head on a flight to Los Angeles in September.
The Federal Aviation Administration has received 2,011 complaints about unruly passengers this year through Oct. 4, prompting 721 investigations and 487 enforcement actions, according to an agency database.
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