PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland man has been charged for allegedly attempting to open an airplane emergency door while the plane was in flight from Salt Lake City to Portland on Friday.
Michael Brandon Demarre, 32, removed the plastic covering of the emergency exit handle on the Delta Airlines flight and pulled on the handle "with his full body weight," according to an affidavit FBI special agent Adam Hoover filed in support of the arrest warrant.
A flight attendant demanded that Demarre stop touching the handle, and he complied, according to the affidavit. The flight attendant directed Demarre to the rear of the plane where he was seated and physically restrained, and the crew asked four passengers to watch him and stop him from going near the emergency exits again.
Demarre has a previous 2020 conviction for DUII, according to the affidavit, but he was not reported to have appeared intoxicated or under the influence of drugs during the Feb. 11 incident, according to the affidavit. Prosecutors said witnesses reported him exhibiting mental health symptoms, The Oregonian reported on Monday.
Port of Portland Police detained him when the plane landed, and told police that he "engaged the emergency exit door handle so other passengers would video him, thereby giving him the opportunity to share his thoughts on COVID-19 vaccines," according to the affidavit.
He was charged with interference and attempted interference with flight crew and attendants and threats to interfere with flight crew and attendants.
Demarre made an initial appearance in federal court on Monday, and was ordered detained pending further court proceedings, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office from the District of Oregon.
Airplane doors and emergency exits are built to only open inward, making them impossible to open in flight because the cabin pressure is higher than the outside air pressure and keeps the door pushed firmly into the frame.