PORTLAND, Ore. (KGO) -- An off-duty airline pilot riding in an extra cockpit seat on a Horizon Air flight said "I'm not OK" just before trying to cut the engines midflight and later told police he had recently taken psychedelic mushrooms as his mental health worsened, according to charging documents made public Tuesday.
State prosecutors in Oregon filed 83 counts of attempted murder against Alaska Airlines pilot Joseph David Emerson, 44, on Tuesday just before he appeared in court, with his attorney, Noah Horst, entering not guilty pleas on his behalf.
During the hearing, Emerson seemed to catch someone's eye in the gallery and mouthed a message.
Federal prosecutors meanwhile charged Emerson with interfering with a flight crew, which can carry up to 20 years in prison.
According to a probable cause statement filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Emerson told Port of Portland police following his arrest that he had been struggling with depression, that a friend had recently died and that he had taken psychedelic mushrooms about 48 hours before he attempted to cut the engines. He also said he had not slept in more than 40 hours, according to the document.
Police reported that Emerson did not appear to be intoxicated at the time of the interview, and in a statement Tuesday, Alaska Airlines, which owns Horizon, said neither the gate agents nor flight crew noticed any signs of impairment that might have barred him from the flight. An FBI agent wrote in a probable cause affidavit in support of the federal charge that Emerson "said it was his first-time taking mushrooms."
Emerson, an Alaska Airlines pilot from Pleasant Hill, was arrested Sunday night after the flight crew reported that he tried to cut the engines of the plane by pulling on the fire-extinguisher handles - known as the "T handles."
Federal officials tell ABC News Emerson was overwhelmed by the flight crew and subdued. He was then handcuffed to a seat, as the flight was diverted to Portland, Oregon. However, during the plane's descent, he tried to grab the handle of an emergency exit, according to the document. A flight attendant stopped him by placing her hands on top of his, the document said.
The captain and first officer told police after the plane landed that Emerson said "I'm not OK" just before he reached up to pull the handles. They were able to stop him before he pulled the handles all the way down, the affidavit said.
Emerson walked calmly to the back of the plane after being told to leave the cockpit and told a flight attendant, "You need to cuff me right now or it's going to be bad," the affidavit said. Another flight attendant heard him saying, "I messed everything up" and "tried to kill everybody."
The pilots reported "there was zero indication" anything was wrong as the flight began, and they made small talk with Emerson sitting in a jump seat in the cockpit.
According to the affidavit, Emerson asked police if he could waive his right to an attorney: "I'm admitting to what I did. I'm not fighting any charges you want to bring against me, guys."
Alaska Airlines largely confirmed what the Department of Justice said in its complaint about Emerson's actions on Flight 2059, saying after reviewing the document it's "deeply disturbed by what we have learned."
The airline said in a statement its gate agents followed FAA-mandated practices to authorize a jump-seat passenger, confirming that Emerson was an off-duty pilot with Alaska Airlines.
Alaska said its gate agents and flight attendants are trained to identify signs and symptoms of impairment and that "at no time during the check-in or boarding process did our Gate Agents or flight crew observe any signs of impairment that would have led them to prevent Emerson from flying on Flight 2059."
Alaska Airlines told ABC News Emerson has since been removed from service indefinitely and relieved from all duties at Alaska Airlines.
"We are deeply proud of our Horizon flight crew and their quick actions both in the flight deck and in the rear of the aircraft," the airline said. "Working together, consistent with their training, they performed their critical roles exceptionally well, representing the best of their profession."
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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