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California man caught on video punching flight attendant now faces charges

A Southern California man, seen on video punching an American Airlines employee earlier this week, was charged Thursday with a federal offense carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years.

The incident occurred Wednesday during American Airlines Flight 377 from San José del Cabo in Mexico to LAX.

Alexander Tung Cuu Le of Westminster was charged with one charge of interference with flight crew members and escorts, which carries a legal maximum of 20 years in federal prison. An American Airlines spokesman said Le was met by law enforcement officers upon arrival at LAX.

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.

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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 by making closed fists with both hands,” according to the DOJ.

As seen in a video captured by flight passenger Barrie Livingstone, Le reportedly waved his arm at the flight attendant but missed. The American Airlines flight attendant turned their backs to walk to the cockpit before Le rushed forward to punch the flight attendant in the back of the head.

Since the violent episode was captured on video, it has sparked national interest in the incident. Attacks on flight attendants and bad passenger behavior have increased significantly over the past two years. According to a Federal Aviation Administration investigation into unruly passenger incidents, there have been 1,973 reports of unruly passengers and 680 investigations have been launched so far in 2022.

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

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

“Mr. Le showed up in downtown Los Angeles yesterday and that hearing continued through Monday,” McEvoy said. “That will be a hearing to determine his possible bail. Mr. Le has not pleaded for anything yet.”

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