After 27 years on the force, Larry Wright retired from the San Mateo Police Department four years ago, but his training and instincts as a cop kicked back in Sunday night as a man walked past him as American Airlines Flight 1561 began its approach to San Francisco.
"He broke into somewhat of a trot and began running and as he did, he began to yell Allahu Akbar and from my training with the San Mateo County Police Department, I knew there might be a problem, and there could be a possible threat," Wright said.
That possible threat was Rageh Al-Murisi, an immigrant from Yemen who lived briefly in Vallejo. The 28-year-old had his first court appearance in San Francisco Tuesday. He is accused of interfering with the flight crew by trying twice to break into the cockpit. During the hearing, federal prosecutors pointed out the phrase "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for "God is great," was used by the Sept. 11 hijackers
"I felt that he was trying to take on the flight crew and possibly crash the airplane," Wright said.
Wright, 54, says Al-Murisi was so clammy the cuffs he tried to put on him slipped off at first, but eventually he and other passengers were able to get him subdued.
"I basically just sat on him until we landed," Wright said. "He never spoke to me directly; the only thing he said about approximately 30 times was 'Allahu Akbar.'"
Al-Murisi's cousin says Al-Murisi is not very religious and certainly not a terrorist.
"Whatever he was trying to do was not a terrorist attack, he wasn't trying to ham anybody," Rageh Al-Murisi, who shares the same name as his cousin, said.
But prosecutors pointed out a series of suspicious behavior during Tuesday's hearing. Al-Murisi had no luggage, no keys, no phone, two post dated checks for thousands of dollars and multiple driver's licenses.
Wright says after Sept. 11 he swore to himself that he would never be a victim.
Al-Murisi remains in custody without bail. His next court appearance is on Friday.