Skip to main content

Canadian airline passenger arrested by SWAT is mentally ill, father says

By Kevin Conlon, CNN
updated 4:05 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Canadian airline passenger Ali Shahi out on bond
  • Shahi's father thought it was Ali when he heard the news of a bomb threat
  • Cell phone video captured SWAT team storming plane to arrest him
  • He is charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft after

(CNN) -- When Sadegh Shahi heard reports about a SWAT team armed to the teeth storming onto a Sunwing Airlines flight to arrest a passenger, he thought to himself, "it's probably my son."

The father's intuition apparently was correct.

Ali Shahi was arrested Friday by at least a half-dozen heavily armed authorities who stormed aboard an airplane looking for him at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

Jarring cell phone video of the episode was captured by fellow passengers.

Earlier that morning -- about 45 minutes into flight 772 from Toronto to Panama City -- the 25-year-old Canadian citizen made a "direct threat against the aircraft," according to Sunwing spokeswoman Janine Chapman. Witnesses told Canada's CTV news that Shahi said he wanted to bomb Canada.

The Boeing 737 -- which at that point was high above West Virginia -- was escorted back to Toronto by two U.S. fighter jets that were on an aerial training drill nearby, NORAD spokeswoman Capt. Jennifer Stadnyk told CNN.

The elder Shahi told CNN that Ali is not a violent person and did not mean what he said. He said his son is mentally ill, and has never gotten the support he's needed.

"Ali thinks life is a game," he said. "We've called the cops 24 times in the past year on him. We've begged police for help, but they never do anything. They always send him back home."

Shahi said his son is a friendless, unemployed gambling addict who has suffered from depression and eating disorders for a decade. "In high school, he was fat," he said. "He was bullied until he became anorexic."

Ali Shahi is charged with mischief to property, mischief or interfering with the lawful enjoyment of property, other threats and endangering the safety of an aircraft, according to Constable Lillian Fitzpatrick of Peel Regional Police. He was released Saturday on $1,000 bond, according to CTV.

The ordeal for flight 772's passengers did not end with Shahi's arrest.

After taking off from Toronto, the flight was diverted again, this time to Jamaica for a medical emergency, according to Chapman. Eventually, the plane touched down at Panama City's Tocumen International Airport at 9:41 p.m. local time, nearly 12 hours behind schedule.

ADVERTISEMENT