Man accused of holding razor blade to woman’s neck on JetBlue flight, officials say

A Utah man has been arrested and charged after allegedly holding a razor blade to a woman’s neck during a flight.

Merrill Darrell Fackrell, 41, was on a JetBlue flight from New York to Salt Lake City on Nov. 21 when he allegedly assaulted the passenger next to him, according to the Justice Department.

He sat in a row by the window with a married woman and man and engaged in conversation with the woman, according to a complaint filed by the DOJ.

The woman started watching a movie with headphones and said she could hear Fackrell talking to herself, but she wasn’t paying attention. Fackrell then put his hand in front of the screen and told her to pause the movie.

The woman claims she took off her headphones and realized Fackrell had what looked like a knife inches from her neck, according to the DOJ.

The object was later identified as a straight-edged razor with a 1- to 2-inch blade.

Fackrell reportedly got up and yelled, “She’ll be fine,” and “no one need worry.” He allegedly told the husband to “get out of there”.

The woman’s husband got up to alert a flight attendant. The woman charged to the aisle and Fackrell tried to grab her shoulder and stop her.

Another passenger sitting across the aisle saw Fackrell holding an object, confronted him and was able to get him to put the object he was holding onto the seat. He gave the item — which turned out to be a razor — to the flight crew for safekeeping, the indictment said. He then sat next to Fackrell for the duration of the flight.

The alleged incident occurred at the end of the flight, a JetBlue spokesperson said in a statement to CBS News.

“Crew members responded by working to de-escalate the situation and notified police who met the flight in Salt Lake City,” the spokesman said. “The safety of our customers and crew members is JetBlue’s number one priority and we will support law enforcement in their investigation.”

A fellow passenger on the plane recorded video of Fackrell being escorted out by police after landing.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a complaint against Fackrell on Nov. 22, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, for carrying a weapon on board an aircraft and assaulting with a dangerous weapon in the United States’ Special Aircraft Jurisdiction.

The case is being investigated by the Salt Lake City Police Department and an FBI officer.

A spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said the administration is “deeply concerned about the number of unruly passengers exhibiting disruptive behavior during the flight.”

TSA is working with law enforcement on the case.

“We are taking our responsibility to secure airspace for the traveling public very seriously and are introducing new X-ray technology at more airports to improve our ability to better detect items such as those used in this incident,” the spokesperson said. “We commend the actions of the flight attendants and other passengers on this flight.”

There were 5,981 reports of unruly passengers in 2021, and the FAA proposed $5 million in fines for unruly passengers last year, the administration said.

Last year, 1,099 investigations were launched, a significant increase from 2020 when there were 183 investigations into unruly passenger incidents.

This year, on November 1, there were 2,178 reports of unruly passengers.

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