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May 28, 2013 2:24 AM by Rebecca Taylor

Arizona man arrested on Alaska Airlines flight

TUCSON - An Arizona man is under arrest after trying to open an emergency exit during a flight.

Witnesses say 23-year-old Alexander Herrera was trying to open the latch of an emergency exit.

The man's father is trying to make sense of what happened.

Passengers tackled Herrera before he could cause any real harm.

His father, Bill, speaking by telephone in Rio Rico says he's taken aback by the allegations against his son, and his arrest.

Bill Herrera describes Alexander as a smart kid who started college but never finished, who was into computers, and recently landed a head-hunting job in Anchorage.

What his son is accused of doing Bill says, doesn't add up.

"This sounds like a scary movie, a Sunday night movie, something you watch on TV," says Bill Herrera. "No, why would he do that?"

Bill did confirm, his son has a history of mental illness, diagnosed as bipolar a couple of years ago, but says that his son doesn't like to take his medication regularly.

During the flight, passengers say Herrera was making strange comments before the incident. He was tackled and tied to a seat with shoe strings, and seat belt extensions.

Airline passenger Henry Pignataro describes what happened.

"The emergency door has two latches. He already had pulled the bottom latch, and his head was up against the baggage compartment. I put him in a choke hold and kind of went up over the seat a bit and brought him down to the ground," he said.

The plane landed safely and Herrera was arrested.

Still trying to understand what led his son to allegedly do such a thing, Bill doesn't have an answer, though he admits his son smokes marijuana from time to time.

"Every time he goes to Tucson, which is about an hour from my house, in Rio Rico. When he comes back I see him a little tipsy. But again it's not associated with alcohol, I imagine he's under the influence of marijuana," says Herrera, "But nothing to be alarmed."

Officials say Herrera will likely appear before a federal magistrate in Portland Tuesday morning.

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