California man caught on video punching flight attendant now faces charges

A Southern California man who was caught on video earlier this week beating an American Airlines employee was charged Thursday with a federal crime that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

The incident happened on American Airlines Flight 377 from San Jose del Cabo, Mexico to LAX on Wednesday.

Alexander Tung Cuu Le of Westminster has been charged with disrupting flight crew members and flight attendants, which carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in federal prison. A spokesman for American Airlines said that Le was met by police officers upon his arrival at LAX.

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In an affidavit released by the California Department of Justice’s office, the incident began 20 minutes after takeoff when Le grabbed a flight attendant’s shoulder from behind and asked for coffee. He continued to disrupt the flight by allegedly loitering near the first class cabin.

When a flight attendant approached Le to ask him to return to his assigned seat, “Le allegedly stood up and assumed a fighting stance toward the flight attendant, clenching closed fists with both hands,” according to the DOJ.

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As seen in video captured by flight passenger Barrie Livingstone, Le allegedly swung his arm at the flight attendant but missed. The American Airlines flight attendant turned his back on him to walk to the flight deck before Le charged forward to punch the flight attendant in the back of the head.

Since being caught on video, the violent episode has sparked national interest in the incident. Attacks on flight attendants and passenger misconduct have sharply increased over the past two years. According to a Federal Aviation Administration investigation into unruly passenger incidents, 1,973 reports of unruly passengers have been reported and 680 investigations initiated so far in 2022.

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In 2021, the FAA initiated 1,099 investigations, a staggering increase from the 183 investigations initiated in 2020.

Ciaran McEvoy, a spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office, told SFGATE Le appeared in US District Court on Thursday.

“Mr. Le appeared in downtown Los Angeles yesterday and this hearing continued through Monday,” McEvoy said. Mr. Le has not yet pleaded.”

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