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Passenger indicted on federal charges for bringing box cutter on plane, forcing emergency landing

The pilot was forced to make an emergency landing at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

ATLANTA — An Ohio man accused of bringing two box cutters aboard a flight headed to Tampa and telling other passengers he wanted to stab someone was indicted on multiple charges, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

William Allen Liebisch was a passenger on a Frontier Airlines flight from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Tampa, Florida on Nov. 11. The DOJ said he passed through airport security where Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers found a box cutter but mistakenly believed they "rendered it inoperable by removing its blade."

Once the flight was en route to Florida, "Liebisch inserted a spare blade that was stored in the handle of the box cutter," the DOJ said in a news release.

A passenger reportedly saw Liebusch use the box cutter to clean his nails and another passenger reported to two flight attendants that Liebisch said he was going to stab someone. 

This prompted an emergency landing at the nearest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. 

"Because there were no law enforcement officers on the flight, one attendant asked two male passengers to assist," the DOJ reported in a news release.
"One passenger stood in the back nearby while the other took the seat of the passenger who made the report to the flight attendants. Both men and a flight attendant tried to keep Liebisch calm and under control for the remainder of the flight."

Once everyone deplaned in Atlanta, police officers were at the gate but did not get on the plane in an effort to avoid agitating Liebisch. 

As the last person walked off the plane, authorities said Liebisch charged at a flight attendant at the front of the plane while holding his box cutter.
One of the men asked to assist earlier on the flight tackled Liebisch and Atlanta police officers rushed onto the plane to subdue him. 

A second search of his carry-on bag was conducted and law enforcement found a second box cutter, the DOJ said. 

The plane was unable to continue its trip to Tampa until the next morning.

Liebisch was officially charged with interfering with the duties of a flight crew and carrying a weapon aboard an airplane.

"People have the right to travel in peace and free from fear of their fellow passengers," U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said. "Passengers who disrupt flights with threats of violence will quickly learn that they will be answering for their conduct in federal court."

The magistrate court ordered Liebisch to remain in custody pending trial.

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