An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot, described by neighbors as a ‘lovely and fantastic’ married father-of-two, is facing 83 counts of attempted murder after he tried to shut down the engines of a plane he was traveling on, authorities say. 

Passengers on-board the nearly-doomed flight said they were told Joseph David Emerson, 44, had a ‘mental breakdown’ before he allegedly tried to engage a fire suppression system that would shut off the engines while mid-air.

Emerson’s neighbors told DailyMail.com that he lives with his wife, Sarah Stretch, and two young sons in a close-knit residential block in Pleasant Hill, California, in the rolling hills east of San Francisco.

Nobody answered the door of his $1.2 million, four bedroom home on Monday. A light-hearted sign on the doorstep reads, ‘Free Flying Lessons. Inquire Inside,’ Another reads, ‘Trick or Treat,’ as the family-oriented neighborhood gears up for Halloween.

Neighbors describe Emerson as a happy, playful dad, a friendly man with no issues they knew about. He would play basketball with his kids on a court he built for them in the back yard, and invited neighbors over for parties.

Joseph Emerson has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder for each person on board the Embraer 175 plane on Sunday 

Passengers onboard the Alaska Airlines flight said that they were told the plane was diverting due to a 'medical emergency'. Aubrey Gavello, who was on board the plane, said a flight attendant told passengers that Emerson suffered a mental breakdown

Passengers onboard the Alaska Airlines flight said that they were told the plane was diverting due to a 'medical emergency'. Aubrey Gavello, who was on board the plane, said a flight attendant told passengers that Emerson suffered a mental breakdown

Passengers onboard the Alaska Airlines flight said that they were told the plane was diverting due to a ‘medical emergency’. Aubrey Gavello, who was on board the plane, said a flight attendant told passengers that Emerson suffered a mental breakdown

An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot accused of trying to crash a plane with 84 people on board has been pictured for the first time - as stunned locals on his street described him as the perfect dad, husband and neighbor. (Pictured: Joseph Emerson with wife Sarah Stretch)

An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot accused of trying to crash a plane with 84 people on board has been pictured for the first time - as stunned locals on his street described him as the perfect dad, husband and neighbor. (Pictured: Joseph Emerson with wife Sarah Stretch)

An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot accused of trying to crash a plane with 84 people on board has been pictured for the first time – as stunned locals on his street described him as the perfect dad, husband and neighbor. (Pictured: Joseph Emerson with wife Sarah Stretch)

Passengers have said they were told Emerson, 44, (pictured with his sons) had a 'mental breakdown' before he allegedly moved to disable the plane mid-air by attempting to deploy the fire suppression system from the jump seat on Sunday evening

Passengers have said they were told Emerson, 44, (pictured with his sons) had a 'mental breakdown' before he allegedly moved to disable the plane mid-air by attempting to deploy the fire suppression system from the jump seat on Sunday evening

Passengers have said they were told Emerson, 44, (pictured with his sons) had a ‘mental breakdown’ before he allegedly moved to disable the plane mid-air by attempting to deploy the fire suppression system from the jump seat on Sunday evening

Emerson is a devoted family man and neighbors were shocked and saddened by the news he had allegedly attempted to crash a passenger plane carrying dozens of people

Emerson is a devoted family man and neighbors were shocked and saddened by the news he had allegedly attempted to crash a passenger plane carrying dozens of people

Emerson is a devoted family man and neighbors were shocked and saddened by the news he had allegedly attempted to crash a passenger plane carrying dozens of people 

Emerson has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder for each person on board the Embraer 175 plane, which took off from Everett in suburban Seattle at 5.23pm on Sunday. (Pictured: the same plane type as the one involved in the Sunday incident)

Emerson has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder for each person on board the Embraer 175 plane, which took off from Everett in suburban Seattle at 5.23pm on Sunday. (Pictured: the same plane type as the one involved in the Sunday incident)

Emerson has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder for each person on board the Embraer 175 plane, which took off from Everett in suburban Seattle at 5.23pm on Sunday. (Pictured: the same plane type as the one involved in the Sunday incident) 

Emerson was traveling in the jump seat of the Embraer 175 plane, which took off from Everett in suburban Seattle at 5.23pm on Sunday. 

On top of the homicide charges, he faces an additional 83 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of endangering an aircraft, police documents show.

The plane had been bound for San Francisco, but had to be diverted to Portland International Airport amid the cockpit struggle, when crew members allegedly managed to ‘subdue’ Emerson. 

Neighbors also had positive things to say about Emerson’s wife, describing her as a doting mother and a swimming coach, who taught physical education at a local community college.

‘It is just really shocking, disturbing news,’ said next-door neighbor Karen Yee. ‘They are excellent neighbors. He is a fantastic father. He plays with the kids all the time. He’s very friendly. He’s just a great guy.

‘He’s very understanding of other people,’ she said. ‘We have a son with special needs, and he’s very good to him. We just couldn’t imagine him doing anything to hurt someone.’

‘It’s very hard for us to believe that he would do anything intentionally like that,’ Yee added, tearfully. ‘I can’t fathom him doing anything that would hurt anyone.’

Emerson was led out of the plane in handcuffs after passengers were told it had to make an unscheduled landing due to a medical emergency

Emerson was led out of the plane in handcuffs after passengers were told it had to make an unscheduled landing due to a medical emergency

Emerson was led out of the plane in handcuffs after passengers were told it had to make an unscheduled landing due to a medical emergency 

Emerson's neighbors told DailyMail.com that he lives with his wife, Sarah Stretch, and two young sons in a close-knit residential block in Pleasant Hill, California , in the rolling hills east of San Francisco

Emerson's neighbors told DailyMail.com that he lives with his wife, Sarah Stretch, and two young sons in a close-knit residential block in Pleasant Hill, California , in the rolling hills east of San Francisco

Emerson’s neighbors told DailyMail.com that he lives with his wife, Sarah Stretch, and two young sons in a close-knit residential block in Pleasant Hill, California , in the rolling hills east of San Francisco

Emerson's family home in a close-knit residential block in Pleasant Hill, California, in the rolling hills east of San Francisco

Emerson's family home in a close-knit residential block in Pleasant Hill, California, in the rolling hills east of San Francisco

Emerson’s family home in a close-knit residential block in Pleasant Hill, California, in the rolling hills east of San Francisco

'It is just really shocking, disturbing news,' said next-door neighbor Karen Yee (right, with her husband Ed Yee). 'They are excellent neighbors. He is a fantastic father. He plays with the kids all the time. He's very friendly. He's just a great guy'

'It is just really shocking, disturbing news,' said next-door neighbor Karen Yee (right, with her husband Ed Yee). 'They are excellent neighbors. He is a fantastic father. He plays with the kids all the time. He's very friendly. He's just a great guy'

‘It is just really shocking, disturbing news,’ said next-door neighbor Karen Yee (right, with her husband Ed Yee). ‘They are excellent neighbors. He is a fantastic father. He plays with the kids all the time. He’s very friendly. He’s just a great guy’

Lou Rossi (pictured), an elderly neighbor, described Emerson as a sweet man who recently helped him find items in a local Safeway grocery story and let him take some logs from his house to build a work bench for his own son

Lou Rossi (pictured), an elderly neighbor, described Emerson as a sweet man who recently helped him find items in a local Safeway grocery story and let him take some logs from his house to build a work bench for his own son

Lou Rossi (pictured), an elderly neighbor, described Emerson as a sweet man who recently helped him find items in a local Safeway grocery story and let him take some logs from his house to build a work bench for his own son

She wanted to reach out to the family to see if there’s anything she could do to help, noting, ‘My heart just hurts for them.’

Her husband, Ed Yee, echoed her sentiments. ‘He’s never had a negative statement about his job or anything like that,’ he said.

Lou Rossi, an elderly neighbor, described Emerson as a sweet man who recently helped him find items in a local Safeway grocery story and let him take some logs from his house to build a work bench for his own son.

‘I watched the news all the time, and I see things happen in neighborhoods where people say they could never believe someone would do something like this,’ Rossi said.

‘All I could do is vouch for his character,’ he continued. ‘I’ve helped him do things around his house. He does a lot of stuff with his kids. I can’t say one word that would be derogatory towards him at all.

‘All I could tell you is he is a really nice man, and his wife Sarah is a really nice lady, and they never, ever even remotely made me think anything negative about them.

Rossi, retired from the U.S. Air Force, said he’d sometimes talk to Emerson about planes and engines, just casually.

‘He seemed to enjoy his work,’ he said. ‘He was doing a lot of training time.’

‘I could always tell when he was gone because his car would be gone,’ he continued. ‘His car runs on nitrogen, so it had a very different sound.’

A light-hearted sign on Emerson's doorstep reads, 'Free Flying Lessons. Inquire Inside,' Another reads, 'Trick or Treat,' as the family-oriented neighborhood gears up for Halloween

A light-hearted sign on Emerson's doorstep reads, 'Free Flying Lessons. Inquire Inside,' Another reads, 'Trick or Treat,' as the family-oriented neighborhood gears up for Halloween

A light-hearted sign on Emerson’s doorstep reads, ‘Free Flying Lessons. Inquire Inside,’ Another reads, ‘Trick or Treat,’ as the family-oriented neighborhood gears up for Halloween

Lou Rossi, an elderly neighbor, described Emerson (pictured) as a sweet man who recently helped him find items in a local Safeway grocery story and let him take some logs from his house to build a work bench for his own son

Lou Rossi, an elderly neighbor, described Emerson (pictured) as a sweet man who recently helped him find items in a local Safeway grocery story and let him take some logs from his house to build a work bench for his own son

Lou Rossi, an elderly neighbor, described Emerson (pictured) as a sweet man who recently helped him find items in a local Safeway grocery story and let him take some logs from his house to build a work bench for his own son

The plane involved in the Sunday incident had been bound for San Francisco, but had to be diverted to Portland International Airport amid the cockpit struggle, when crew members allegedly managed to 'subdue' Emerson

The plane involved in the Sunday incident had been bound for San Francisco, but had to be diverted to Portland International Airport amid the cockpit struggle, when crew members allegedly managed to 'subdue' Emerson

The plane involved in the Sunday incident had been bound for San Francisco, but had to be diverted to Portland International Airport amid the cockpit struggle, when crew members allegedly managed to ‘subdue’ Emerson

'It is just really shocking, disturbing news,' said next-door neighbor Karen Yee. 'They are excellent neighbors. He is a fantastic father. He plays with the kids all the time. He's very friendly. He's just a great guy

'It is just really shocking, disturbing news,' said next-door neighbor Karen Yee. 'They are excellent neighbors. He is a fantastic father. He plays with the kids all the time. He's very friendly. He's just a great guy

‘It is just really shocking, disturbing news,’ said next-door neighbor Karen Yee. ‘They are excellent neighbors. He is a fantastic father. He plays with the kids all the time. He’s very friendly. He’s just a great guy

Aubrey Gavello, who was on board the plane, said a flight attendant told passengers that Emerson suffered a mental breakdown.  

‘After we did land and the gentleman was escorted off, the flight attendant got back on the speaker and said, plain and simple, ‘He had a mental breakdown. We needed to get him off the plane immediately’,’ she told ABC

She said passengers were not immediately alerted to what Alaska Airlines called the ‘security threat’, until a flight attendant told them over the speaker that there was ‘an emergency situation and the plane needed to land immediately’. 

Gavello said they were later told it was a ‘medical emergency’, and she heard a flight attendant tell the suspect, ‘We’re going to be fine, it’s OK, we’ll get you off the plane.’

Another passenger, Alex Wood, said the pilot announced that ‘there was a disturbance in the cockpit.’ 

‘It was very professional, handled very calmly, and we didn’t really know what was going on until we landed,’ he told ABC. 

Once the plane landed, Wood said police went to the back of the aircraft and escorted a handcuffed man off the plane. 

He noted that the suspect ‘was wearing a lanyard, a sweater’ and he ‘looked like an airline employee.’

Emerson was described by neighbors as a happy family man who did not seem to have any issues

Emerson was described by neighbors as a happy family man who did not seem to have any issues

Emerson was described by neighbors as a happy family man who did not seem to have any issues 

Live Air Traffic audio appears to show a pilot describing the person believed to be Emerson 'subdued' after the incident, suggesting there was a struggle

Live Air Traffic audio appears to show a pilot describing the person believed to be Emerson 'subdued' after the incident, suggesting there was a struggle

Live Air Traffic audio appears to show a pilot describing the person believed to be Emerson ‘subdued’ after the incident, suggesting there was a struggle

Alaska Airlines said the crew ‘secured the aircraft without incident’.  

‘On Oct. 22, Alaska Airlines Flight 2059 operated by Horizon Air from Everett, WA (PAE) to San Francisco, CA (SFO) reported a credible security threat related to an authorized occupant in the flight deck jump seat,′ Alaska Airlines said.

‘We are grateful for the professional handling of the situation by the Horizon flight crew and appreciate our guests’ calm and patience throughout this event.’ 

Live Air Traffic audio appears to show a pilot describing the person believed to be Emerson ‘subdued’ after the incident, suggesting there was a struggle.  

‘We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit and he doesn’t sound like he’s causing any issue in the back right now, I think he’s subdued,’ a pilot told air traffic controllers, according to audio recorded by Live ATC. 

‘We want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and parked.’

Emerson was arrested by Port of Portland officials, and he is described in his booking sheet as a 6 foot 1 44-year-old bald white man with blue eyes, weighing 210lbs. 

Leave a Reply
You May Also Like

Coronavirus warning: ‘My toe is turning blue’ – woman explains shock COVID-19 symptom

These patients would later be diagnosed with COVID-19, they added. If anyone…

Unseen images offer insight into the early days of Princess Diana and King Charles’ marriage

King Charles and Princess Diana were every inch the doting parents in…

Royal family plan ‘business as usual approach’ amid turmoil over Harry and Meghan documentary

The Mail on Sunday reported yesterday how the King (pictured today) and…

Move over Florida! Here are the ten best states to give up work

Its stunning beaches, warm weather and low taxes have long made it…