Southwest Incident: An In-Depth Account

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Southwest Incident: An In-Depth Account

Post by Dennis Lewi » Sun, 24 Sep 2000 04:00:00

Today's New York Times has a lengthy article about the 19-year-old victim,
Jonathan Burton, on the Southwest flight from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas
and his behavior during the flight. It's online at:
(If that URL doesn't pull up the story, you'll need to sign up for a free
account with


An autopsy report said that Mr. Burton had traces of *** and THC, the
active ingredient in ***, in his system.

Mr. Burton's mother, Janet Burton, told reporters in Las Vegas this week
that she did not believe her son used illegal ***. Mrs. Burton, a widow,
did not respond to messages left for her, and no one answered the door
today at her Las Vegas home. Her lawyer, Kent Spence, did not respond to
repeated messages.

Friends and neighbors described [Burton] as a joy to know; not one said
she ever knew him to act ***ly or use ***. "He was too smart for
that," said Martha Ford, who lived across the street from the Burtons
until three years ago.

Sgt. Ken Young, an information officer for the Clark County School
District, said officers who worked at Cheyenne High School, from which Mr.
Burton had graduated, had no idea who he was, a sign that he had never
been in trouble.

"I'm a retired police officer," said [Mary] Mahoney [who lives next door
to the Burtons]. "I'd know a rotten kid if I saw one."


Highlights on what occurred during the flight:

Witnesses said that the Aug. 11 flight was routine until about 20 minutes
before landing.

At that point, [Adam P.] Bradshaw [seated in an aisle seat near the back
of the B-737] -- who is the news director at KTVX, the ABC affiliate in
Salt Lake [City] -- said he saw Mr. Burton walk toward the rear of the
plane, take a drink off a cart and walk back. Over the next few minutes,
Mr. Burton walked up and down the aisle several times, once pausing at Mr.
Bradshaw's seat. "He had very frantic eyes," Mr. Bradshaw said.

John Whitaker, a retired Army officer and construction project manager,
said he told his business partner in the seat beside him, "That dude's

Mr. Burton then returned to his seat, the passengers recalled. Christy
Gibson, a Las Vegas resident sitting across the aisle from Mr. Burton,
said she then heard the attendant ask if he needed help.

Ms. Gibson said Mr. Burton responded, "No, I'm fine. It's just the ***."


Seconds later, passengers said, Mr. Burton bolted toward the front.

"About five feet from the***pit door, he leaped into the air with both
feet at the door, like a long jump," Mr. Bradshaw said. "He hit with both
feet. Then, with one foot against the wall, he tried to pull the door
open, wildly jerking around, then beating the door with his fists and
yelling, although I couldn't understand what he was saying."

[The Times reports that several men on the plane tried to calm down Burton
and escort him to his seat. Burton stopped at the emergency exit row in
the middle of the 737.]

"He was saying something like, 'I've got to go, I've got to get out of
here,'" Mr. Whitaker said.

[The passengers in that row had moved, and the men surrounded Burton and
continued their attempts at calming him down. The plane began its descent
into SLC.]

[Flight] attendants did not want [Burton] in an emergency-exit row so they
asked some men to help move him to another seat. One man asked to help,
Ms. Gibson said, was an off-duty police officer.

"They started to move him down the aisle to the back of the plane," Ms.
Gibson said, "but when he heard police officer, he freaked. He went
ballistic. He punched the police officer in the face, split open his lip
and *** was all over the place."


"It was a *** fight, no doubt," [Bradshaw] said. "They finally got him
face down on the floor, but he was still kicking, screaming at the top of
his lungs."


"There was never any mob mentality," Mr. Bradshaw said. "And I don't care
what any other passenger says, I'm convinced nobody wanted to hurt that