Man allegedly held razor to woman's neck on JetBlue flight

A Utah man was arrested and charged after allegedly holding a razor blade to a woman's neck on 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 Department of Justice.

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

The woman began to watch a movie using headphones, and said she could hear Fackrell continue to talk to himself, but she was not paying attention. Fackrell then put his hand in front of the screen and told her to pause the movie.

The woman alleges that she took off her headphones and realized Fackrell had what appeared to be a knife positioned inches from her neck, according to the DOJ.

The object was later identified as a straight edge razor with a one to two inch blade.

Fackrell allegedly stood up and yelled, "She's going to be ok," and "no one needs to worry." He allegedly told the husband to "get the f*** out of there."

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

Another passenger seated across the aisle saw Fackrell holding an object, confronted him, and was able to get him to put the object he was holding down on the seat. He passed the object — which turned out to be a razor — to the flight crew for safe keeping, according to the complaint. He then sat next to Fackrell for the duration of the flight.

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

"Crewmembers responded by working to de-escalate the situation and notified law enforcement who met the flight in Salt Lake City," the spokesperson said. "The safety of our customers and crewmembers is JetBlue's first priority, and we will support law enforcement during their investigation."

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

The U.S. Attorney's Office filed the complaint on Nov. 22 charging Fackrell with carrying a weapon on an aircraft and assault with a dangerous weapon in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, according to the Department of Justice.

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

A spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said the administration is "very concerned about the number of unruly passengers who engage in disruptive behavior during flight."

TSA is working with law enforcement on the case.

"We take our responsibility to secure the skies for the traveling public very seriously and are introducing new x-ray technology at more airports to improve our capability to better detect items such as the one used in this incident," the spokesperson said. "We commend the actions of the flight attendants and other passengers on this flight."

In 2021, there were 5,981 unruly passenger reports, and the FAA proposed $5 million in fines against unruly passengers last year, according to the administration.

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

This year, there have been 2,178 reports of unruly passengers, as of Nov. 1.

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