By Barry Paddock, New York Daily News
A vacationing Bronx cop on a flight home from the Dominican Republic is being hailed a mile-high hero for taking down a berserk passenger who attacked a flight attendant.
"Even when I'm on vacation, I'm still a police officer," said Anibal Mercado, 39, who patrols in the Bronx.
"The only difference is it was 12,000 feet in the air."
About an hour into JetBlue Flight 832 to Kennedy Airport, an unruly passenger a few rows behind Mercado got loud.
Antonio Ynoa, 22, was pestering a flight attendant for soda to mix with his duty-free rum, Mercado said.
The flight attendant told Ynoa opening duty-free alcohol onboard was prohibited and repeatedly told him to put it away.
The unemployed Ynoa, who was returning to New York from visiting his wife in the Dominican Republic, carried on drinking and yelling profanities, Mercado said.
His belligerent behavior sent the two women he shared his row with — both with babies on their laps — scurrying to the front.
When things turned physical about 12:15 a.m., Mercado knew he had to act.
"The gentleman struck the flight attendant," he said. "At that point, I got up from my seat."
As Mercado approached, Ynoa hit the male crew member three more times, then turned his attention to Mercado.
"I could see the fear in the passengers' faces," Mercado said.
Mercado, an 18-year NYPD veteran who weighs close to 300 pounds, was hardly intimidated.
"He was a small guy," Mercado said. "I'm about three times the size of him."
Mercado asked another flight attendant to bring plastic handcuffs kept onboard, and managed to cuff Ynoa.
"He struck me a few times in the face as I was trying to restrain him," Mercado said.
"I do this every day," he added. "I'm not a hero, it's just routine."
Mercado sat with the deranged traveler until the flight landed.
"He was still yelling profanities," Mercado said. "I was just telling him to calm down."
Upon landing, Port Authority police met Mercado and Ynoa onboard.
"He spit in one of the officer's faces and kicked him," Mercado said. "He was very out of control."
FBI agents arrested Ynoa and charged him with assault and interfering with a flight crew. He is expected to be arraigned Monday in Brooklyn Federal Court.
Ynoa was arrested twice last year on marijuana-related charges and pleaded guilty, police said. He has a third prior arrest that is sealed.
His sister, Barbara, who lives in Brooklyn, called him a "good kid" and insisted he wouldn't pick a fight.
"When you drink, people don't think right. That's when problems start," the sister said.
"Antonio has a lot of problems. He has a lot of health problems," she said.
Meanwhile, Mercado spent about four hours at Kennedy Airport with investigators, then showed up for work in the 44th Precinct at 3 p.m.
"I didn't get much sleep," he said.
With Irving DeJohn