The music was blaring on a February afternoon when Francisco Torres stopped by a Massachusetts barbershop, proclaiming he was half-angel, half-devil.
He wanted a dozen people to come outside the shop and shoot him with an automatic weapon stored in his car trunk. Before anyone could make sense of the request, Torres fled the shop and drove off. They never saw a weapon and he didn’t return.
“I didn’t get what he was saying but then I realized he was talking about a gun. I told him there are kids in here, why are you saying this,” said Saul Perez, who was visiting friends at the shop and noted that an employee called 911, ushered children into the back and shut down the shop. “I was spooked.”
The incident took place about a week before Torres would be arrested for attacking a flight attendant and attempting to open the plane’s emergency door on a cross-country United flight from Los Angeles to Boston earlier this month.
Confrontations on flights have skyrocketed since the pandemic started, with some altercations captured and replayed endlessly on social media.
In a video taken by a fellow passenger, Torres loudly threatens to kill people and promises a bloodbath before charging the front of the plane, where a group of passengers tackled him down to the ground to restrain him.
He remains behind bars pending a mental health evaluation, with a judge ruling he “may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent.”
Torres objected to the evaluation through his federal public defender, Joshua Hanye, who didn’t return a call Thursday seeking additional comment. A relative for Torres would not comment on the case.
The flight attack was part of a decadeslong pattern of Torres demonstrating signs of a mental illness. He spent time in mental health facilities, according to lawsuits since closed that he filed in 2021 and 2022 against two hospitals in Massachusetts. Torres says he argued in one of the lawsuits that he was misdiagnosed for a mental illness and, in the other, that he was discriminated against for being vegan.
In December 2022, police confronted him at his house in Worcester County, where he was outside in his underwear saying he was protesting climate change, according to a police report. On another occasion in 2021, police responded to a call from his mother reporting that he was yelling “homicidal threats” out a window. He told police that he was in World War 3 and he had a special device giving him “super sonic hearing,” which he used to listen to his neighbors talking about him.
His case history demonstrates the challenges facing airlines and federal regulators when handling passengers like Torres. Especially since experts say data shows those with mental illnesses are more often the victims of crimes than those responsible for committing violent acts.
Despite repeated run-ins with police, authorities said that he rarely acted violent. He once was accused of grabbing his mother’s arm, but those charges were dismissed. He didn’t legally …read more
Source:: News Headlines