Women ‘violently attacked’ Delta Air Lines officer when denied boarding in NY, feds say

·3 min read
Paul Sakuma/AP

Two Delta Air Lines employees haven’t returned to their jobs for months after one was “violently attacked” by three women and the other was struck in the face for intervening, federal court documents show.

The women are accused of acting “belligerent” before a scheduled flight to Puerto Rico — prompting their boarding to be denied and leading to the violence at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sept. 22, 2021, federal officials said.

Jordan Nixon, 21; Janessa Torres, 21; and Johara Zavala, 44, were arrested Jan. 13 and are facing a federal indictment accusing them of assault, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said in a news release that same day.

“As alleged, the defendants viciously assaulted an airline security officer by beating him to the floor with his radio and then kicking and punching him in the face and body while he was down,” the district’s U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in the release.

“The extreme and aggressive behavior in connection with our air travel is out of control.”

An attorney for Nixon, Peter Guadagnino, said in a statement to McClatchy News she “denies the allegations as set forth by the government” and “she maintains that she is not guilty.” Attorneys for Torres and Zavala both denied requests for comment.

At the airport on Sept 22, the three women are accused of ordering around nine alcoholic drinks between 9 a.m. until their flight was planned for takeoff to San Juan at 12:55 p.m., according to court documents.

When they arrived at the flight’s gate, two Delta Air Lines gate agents saw Zavala appearing “disoriented,” and one “could smell the odor of alcohol on Nixon,” officials say. Then, “Employee-1 notified the Flight crew of the defendants’ apparent intoxication.”

A flight crew member and the captain stepped off the plane to observe the trio, deciding they “should be denied boarding because they were acting belligerent, one of the defendants was refusing to wear her mask properly, and Zavala was visibly disoriented and possibly intoxicated,” court documents say.

A Delta Air Lines security officer, described as “Employee-2,” was asked to help remove the three women on the jetway, prosecutors wrote. The officer told them they couldn’t board but could rebook a separate Delta flight later on in the day.

When the officer told them to leave, the women allegedly yelled and cursed. Then, Nixon is accused of snatching the employee’s radio and striking them “repeatedly” with it.

“When Employee-1 tried to intervene to assist Employee-2, Zavala punched Employee-1 in the face,” court documents allege. As Employee-1 left to get help, the airline security officer fell to the ground, and the women are accused of further attacking them while they were down.

The officer’s vest was reportedly ripped apart as they tried to get away from the attack, according to officials.

“The Flight crew was eventually able to pull Employee-2 behind the glass doors to the jetway, which the Flight crew had to hold shut to prevent further harm to Employee-2,” court documents say. “The three defendants continued to scream and strike at the Flight crew as they attempted to hold the doors closed.”

Both employees who were harmed had to receive hospital treatment for their injuries, according to prosecutors.

All three women appeared in court for an arraignment on Jan. 13 and “were each released on $25,000 bonds,” John Marzulli, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, told McClatchy News in a statement.

Due to bail conditions, “their travel is restricted to New York City and Long Island unless otherwise approved by pretrial services.”

Torres was permitted to travel to Florida “as she’s already prepaid for the trip for her birthday,” Marzulli added.

The trio is due to appear in court again on Feb. 3, according to Marzulli.

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