ATLANTA, Ga. (AJC) -- A Delta Air Lines passenger faces a federal assault charge after allegedly slapping a fellow traveler’s crying 2-year-old son to quiet the child as their flight arrived in Atlanta, according to an FBI affidavit.
Joe Rickey Hundley of Hayden, Idaho, was on Flight 721 from Minneapolis, Minn., to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Feb. 8 and sitting next to Jessica Bennett of Minneapolis when her son began crying from the change in cabin pressure as the plane descended, Bennett told FBI Special Agent Daron Cheney in the Feb. 12 affidavit.
Bennett said she was trying to get the child to stop crying, but he continued. “According to Ms. Bennett, a male passenger next to her in Row 28, Seat A, later identified as Joe Rickey Hundley, told her to shut that” [racial slur] “baby up. Ms. Bennett stated that Joe Rickey Hundley then turned around and slapped [JS] in the face with an open hand, which caused the juvenile victim to scream even louder.”
Efforts were made Friday to reach Hundley for comment. In an interview with The Smoking Gun website, which first reported the incident, Hundley denied striking the child or using a racial slur.
Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution flight attendants separated the passengers after the incident and that the crew arranged for law enforcement to meet the flight when it landed.
The criminal complaint said several people on the plane tried to assist the mother, including Todd Wooten, who told the FBI agent he heard the derogatory language coming from the rear of the plane and went to investigate. Wooten told the agent he witnessed Bennett’s child being assaulted, according to the criminal complaint.
Bennett told the FBI agent the slap left a scratch below the child’s right eye. In an interview with The Smoking Gun, Bennett said Hundley “reeked of alcohol.” She said Hundley had several alcoholic drinks during the two-hour flight and was seen stumbling. Bennett said she was traveling to Atlanta for a funeral.
Hundley told The Smoking Gun that he asked the mother to “quiet the child.” Hundley said he was traveling to Atlanta to visit a hospitalized relative and was “distraught” on the flight. He said he’d had “a single alcoholic drink.”
The Smoking Gun identified Hundley as president of an aircraft parts manufacturer headquartered in Hayden.