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Nonconsensual game of footsie forces Southwest flight to redirect

The perpetrator went from “zero to 60 in nanoseconds," prosecutors say.
Nonconsensual game of footsie forces Southwest flight to redirect

A Southwest flight was forced to redirect this week after a male passenger wouldn’t stop harassing a woman aboard the flight with an attempted game of footsie, according to a criminal complaint filed in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Justin Riley Brafford, of Denton, Texas, was arrested after attempting to “play footsies” with the woman, kicking her repeatedly, and grabbing at her sweater. He also repeatedly asked her about her plans after the flight and if she was staying alone, according to the complaint. The female passenger complained to a flight attendant and asked to be moved, according to the Albuquerque Journal, but even after she moved, Brafford wouldn’t stop and approached her again.


When a flight attendant told Brafford to return to his seat, the 29-year-old man went from “zero to 60 in nanoseconds,” according to the complaint, and began screaming at the flight crew. A flight attendant contacted the cockpit, and a pilot who overheard the yelling diverted the plane, which was bound for Dallas, to Albuquerque.

Brafford later claimed to authorities that the woman came onto him and he felt a connection with her. He did admit that he may have gone too far, according to the complaint.

Brafford has been charged with interference with a flight crew and simple assault. He made an appearance in court on Wednesday, according to the Journal, where a judge overseeing the case said that Brafford has a criminal history, a history of violence, and no stable residence.

Sexual assaults aboard aircrafts are on the rise, according to the FBI. And about one in five flight attendants say that they have witnessed a passenger being sexually assaulted or have had a passenger report a sexual assault to them, according to a survey by the Association of Flight Attendants. About 70 percent of flight attendants themselves say they’ve been sexually harassed.

Cover image: Southwest jet aircraft departing, Orlando International Airport/Getty Images