Skip to main content

Delta Passenger Refused to Mask Up, Threw a Can, Mooned a Flight Attendant, Put a Cap on the Captain’s Head: Feds

Delta Airline plane

A Delta airlines aircraft

A Delta passenger could face up to 20 years in prison for allegedly assaulting a crew member during an anti-mask tantrum for the record books, on an eight-hour flight from Dublin to New York City.

On Jan. 6, Irish resident Shane McInerney boarded Delta flight 45 with strong disagreements to U.S. federal regulations mandating that he wear a mask. His final destination was Florida, where he was taking a job teaching soccer at an academy in Daytona, a person familiar with the matter said.

In a case unsealed on Friday, authorities say that McInerney refused to comply “despite being asked dozens of times by flight crew personnel,” according to an FBI affidavit supporting his criminal complaint.

An irate McInerney wound up throwing an empty beverage can at another passenger, mooned a flight attendant and put a cap on the flight’s captain before the plane landed at JFK International Airport, prosecutors allege.

A week and one day later, McInerney’s alleged antics filled the pages of a six-page affidavit by FBI agent Mark Palagiano, cataloguing the fateful flight.

After hitting the head of a passenger described as “Individual-1” with the empty can, McInerney kicked the back of the seat in front of him, disturbing “Individual-2,” prosecutors say. He then allegedly walked up from his economy-class seat to the Delta One-class section in front of him, where he complained about the foot to another passenger and a flight attendant, according to the FBI.

When he was escorted back to his seat, McInerney “pulled down his pants and underwear and exposed his buttocks” to a flight attendant identified as “Individual-3” and “passengers sitting nearby.”

The FBI identifies the flight’s captain as “Individual-4,” who allegedly tried to mollify McInerney.

“Approximately two hours into the flight, Individual-4, the flight captain, was on his break and spoke with the defendant,” the affidavit states. “During the conversation, the defendant twice took off his cap, placed the cap on Individual-4’s head, and removed it from Individual-4’s head. The defendant also put one of his fists up close to Individual-4’s face and said: ‘Don’t touch me.'”

Authorities say that the disruptions continued to the bitter end. The affidavit states:

In addition, the defendant disobeyed the orders of flight attendants as the airplane was on final approach to JFK’s runway, when the flight crew members, flight attendants, and passengers were buckled into their seats. Instead of remaining seated, the defendant stood up, left his seat, entered the aisle, and refused to sit back down.

At least one passenger found the defendant’s conduct to be scary. Because of the defendant’s numerous disturbances on the above-referenced flight, flight crew members considered diverting the airplane to another airport to remove the defendant before the completion of the trip. Moreover, in light of the totality of the defendant’s conduct during the flight, the flight crew members and flight attendants on the airplane repeatedly stopped their ordinary duties to address him.

McInerney, 29, is a resident of Galway, Ireland. Charged with interference with flight crew members and attendants, McInerney made his initial appearance in Brooklyn Federal Court on Jan. 14, when he was released on a $20,000 bond.

His case falls among others alleging rage in the skies over masks, which landed in court.

His defense attorney Benjamin Zev Yaster, from the Brooklyn Federal Defenders, did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s email requesting comment.

Read the FBI affidavit, below:

(Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."