Three Long Island women are accused of beating up a security officer and a gate agent at JFK airport after they were banned from their flight for being drunk and failing to wear masks properly.
On Wednesday, federal prosecutors charged Jordan Nixon, 21, Janessa Torres, 21, and Johara Zavala, 44, with allegedly beating up multiple workers after they were told they could not board a Delta Airlines flight to Puerto Rico last September.
According to the indictment, the incident began when a gate worker noticed the Long Island women were ‘visibly disoriented and possibly intoxicated’ as they approached the boarding area for a 12:55 pm San Juan flight. One of the women also refused to properly wear her mask.
Prosecutors charged Jordan Nixon, 21, Janessa Torres, 21, and Johara Zavala, 44, for allegedly beating up multiple JFK employees after they were told they could not board a Delta Airlines flight to Puerto Rico last September
The three Long Island women ganged up on the security officer and punched and kicked him as he lay on the floor, causing his upper lip to bleed
In a separate filing prosecutors said the women initially were scheduled to depart to Puerto Rico at 8:10 am, but were rebooked. Surveillance footage showed that the women killed time until their rescheduled departure by drinking, ordering nine alcoholic beverages, the Washington Post reported.
Prosecutors said that when Nixon approached the gate, she was holding a clear to-go cup filled with an orange beverage that reeked of alcohol, the Post reported.
The gate worker reported the women’s behavior, and the captain and a member of the flight crew decided the women could not board the plane.
When an airline security officer asked the women to leave the jetway, they refused, began yelling and cursing, and eventually turned violent, prosecutors said.
Nixon tapped the security officer on the head, then took his radio and began hitting him with it until he fell to the ground. When a Delta gate agent tried to help the officer, Zavala punched that employee in the face, court documents said.
The three women then ganged up on the security officer, and punched and kicked him while he was lying on the floor. Torres is accused of stepping on his head and face, causing his upper lip to bleed.
When the officer tried to get up to seek help, the women grabbed him by his vest, tearing it, court papers said.
Flight crew members eventually were able to tear the guard away from the vicious attack and take him behind the doors of the jetway but the women continued to ‘scream and strike at the flight crew.’
Following the attack, the gate agent and security officer were hospitalized and neither has returned to the job, court papers said.
The women, currently out on bail, pleaded not guilty to assault charges. They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Nixon is from Bellport, N.Y., and Torres and Zavala are from Central Islip.
Prosecutors said air travel violence has gotten out of hand.
The extreme and aggressive behavior in connection with our air travel is out of control,’ Breon Peace, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York said. ‘This office has zero tolerance for violent conduct that threatens the safety of airline passengers and employees and will prosecute defendants who allegedly engage in such conduct to the fullest extent of the law.’
Violent incidents on airplanes have soared since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, largely due to passenger frustrations at measures in place to stem the spread.
According to the New York Post, a survey in November found 85 percent of flight attendants had been confronted by unruly passengers during the pandemic.
It also found that nearly one in five had been attacked.
Federal law makes it an offense to interfere with a flight crew, including assaulting, intimidating or threatening crew members.
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has received more than 5,000 reports of unruly passengers, and in 2021, investigated more than 1,000 incidents – five times more than in 2020, according to the agency.