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The nation in brief: Attendant's assault diverts jet to Denver

by Compiled Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | October 29, 2021 at 3:39 a.m.

Attendant's assault diverts jet to Denver

NEW YORK -- An American Airlines flight from New York to California was diverted to Denver after a passenger assaulted a flight attendant, authorities said.

Flight 976 was heading Wednesday from John F. Kennedy International Airport to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana when it landed at Denver International Airport and taxied safely to the gate.

The passenger was removed, the airline said, and the flight continued on to California. The flight attendant was reportedly taken to a hospital, but details on her condition weren't immediately released.

"We are outraged by the reports of what took place on board. Acts of violence against our team members are not tolerated by American Airlines," the Fort Worth-based airline said in statement.

The passenger will be banned from American Airlines flights, the airline said, but "we will not be satisfied until he has been prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This behavior must stop."

Mackenzie Rose, another passenger on the flight, told CBS Los Angeles that the flight attendant was assaulted about halfway through the trip.

"I understand that he actually punched her twice," Rose said. "I did see her walk back down the aisle afterwards. She had blood splattered on the outside of her mask."

The assault comes amid a surge in unruly airline passengers this year, who sometimes become violent.

Maine officers charged with pot violations

PORTLAND, Maine -- Two sheriff's deputies accepted new cars and an ownership stake in an operation that illegally sold more than $13 million in pot grown for Maine's medical marijuana program, federal prosecutors said.

Two other law enforcement officers and a prosecutor aided the operation by providing intelligence and tipping off participants, prosecutors said.

Federal documents unsealed Wednesday when one of the defendants pleaded guilty revealed an elaborate program in which marijuana that was grown in western Maine for registered caregivers was sold outside the program, with profits being laundered through a corporate structure.

Twelve people were charged in the 14-count complaint, including a Rangeley select board member, an assistant district attorney, two Franklin County sheriff's deputies, an Oxford County sheriff's deputy and a Wilton police officer.

Lucas Sirois, 41, of Farmington, led the operation, prosecutors said. Sirois, who made his initial court appearance Thursday in Bangor, filed false income tax returns to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, prosecutors said.

Timothy Parlatore, attorney for Sirois, said the federal charges were based on "the words of a disgruntled former employee," he said.

Parts of Oklahoma protest law blocked

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A federal judge in Oklahoma has temporarily blocked parts of a new state law that makes it a misdemeanor for people to unlawfully obstruct a public street or highway during a protest.

U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron also put on hold a provision that could result in fines of up $50,000 for groups or organizations "found to be a conspirator" with someone who violates any one of a number of state laws pertaining to riots and unlawful assemblies.

The injunction, issued Wednesday, temporarily prevents the enforcement of these parts of the law as the court weighs its constitutionality, according to The Oklahoman. A key provision of the new law that grants immunity to drivers who run people over is not being put on hold.

The Oklahoma chapter of the NAACP sued Attorney General John O'Connor and Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, alleging parts of the law are unconstitutional because it will limit protests and have a chilling effect on free speech.

Judge awards $17M in LAPD shooting

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- A federal jury has awarded $17 million to the parents of a mentally ill man who was shot in a Costco store by an off-duty Los Angeles police officer.

The panel in Riverside ruled Wednesday in a lawsuit filed against the city of Los Angeles and the former officer in the June 14, 2019, killing of 32-year-old Kenneth French.

Jurors concluded that Salvador Sanchez, a seven-year LAPD veteran, was acting within the scope of his employment even though he was off duty. That means the city may be liable for much of the award.

The city will review its options, including an appeal, said Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the city attorney's office.

Sanchez was shopping when French struck him from behind without warning, authorities said. Sanchez pulled a handgun and opened fire, killing French and seriously wounding his parents, Russell and Paola French.

Sanchez told investigators he believed French had a gun. However, French was unarmed and was moving away from Sanchez when he opened fire. His parents said French had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The state attorney general charged Sanchez with voluntary manslaughter and assault with a semiautomatic firearm. He is awaiting trial.

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