TORONTO – A woman who accompanied Ali Shahi, the 25-year-old who allegedly made threats against a Sunwing flight, criticized the police response to the incident in an exclusive interview with Global News.
“It was way too much,” she said. “It scared everyone on the plane, all the children, all around us.”
The woman, who did not want to be identified, told Global News she was so shaken she did not want to appear on camera.
“When they told me I have to be handcuffed, they told me ‘hands behind your back, head down,'” said the woman. “And I said ‘I’m innocent.'”
The woman was sitting next to Shahi as they headed on vacation to Panama City when Shahi became enraged over the price of cigarettes and got into a verbal altercation with a flight attendant.
“He wasn’t happy with (the price of cigarettes), and he gets easily angry because of his mental problem. He started to have a fit, and started saying things he didn’t even know he was saying,” she said.
During the dispute with the attendant, Shahi allegedly made a direct threat against the plane and its passengers. The flight was then diverted back to Pearson Airport.
Dramatic cellphone video taken by one of the passengers shows tactical officers with the Peel Police Emergency Response Unit storming the plane yelling, “Hands up! Heads down!” with weapons drawn.
WATCH: Why the Sunwing incident highlights holes in Ontario’s mental health care system. Sean Mallen reports.
“We waited about an hour (upon landing), and no one said anything. Everyone was just sitting there,” she said. “After an hour we saw the doors fly open, and the SWAT team came through right to the aisle and immediately took (Shahi) down.”
Calls by Global News to Peel police were not immediately returned Sunday evening.
Shahi has been charged with mischief to property, mischief interfering of the lawful enjoyment of property, uttering threats and endangering the safety of an aircraft.
WATCH: Tactical team storms Sunwing plane at Pearson International Airport.
Shahi appeared in a Brampton courtroom on Saturday and was released on $1,000 bail. He has also been ordered not to board a plane or enter Pearson International Airport as part of the conditions for his release.
Sadegh Shahi, Ali’s father, said his son will be sent to a hospital for psychological assessment for a minimum of 72 hours at the family’s request.
Speaking to reporters, Sadegh said his son suffers from several mental illnesses, including a gambling addiction.
“He’s been suffering for 10 years now … I hope they are going to do something for him,” he told reporters.
WATCH: The man allegedly uttered threats on a Sunwing flight appeared in court Saturday, July 26. Cindy Pom reports.
Shahi’s companion was also handcuffed and taken into custody following the incident. She said she was held for around an hour.
“The detective came and I had explained the situation and then he reassured me I wouldn’t be charged and I was free to leave,” she said.
The woman said although her ordeal is over she is scared about getting on another plane.
“What if someone else is like this on the plane … and they act like that again and say they have to shoot someone?” she said. “It’s just so traumatizing.”
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