NEWS

Ali Shahi, Sunwing Threat Suspect, Is Mentally Ill: Family

07/26/2014 11:04 EDT | Updated 09/25/2014 05:59 EDT
A man charged with allegedly making “direct threats" aboard a Sunwing flight from Toronto to Panama City on Friday morning has a history of mental illnesses that weren't properly addressed by police and the health system, family members say.

Ali Shahi, a 25-year-old Canadian, faces several charges after Flight 772 made an emergency landing at Toronto's Pearson International Airport. It was escorted by two U.S. F-16 military jets.

"I am sorry for what happened on the flight, but Ali is not at fault," his father Shadegh Shahi said. "I blame the police and health system. We called the police for help more than 23 times in the last two to three years, but unfortunately they did nothing to help us or help my son."

Shahi became agitated when he found out the price of cigarettes on the flight was about 25 cents cheaper than what he paid at the airport and wanted to be reimbursed for the difference, family members told CBC News.

Shahi has “deep depression” that started in his teens after he was bullied for being “chubby,” according to his father and his uncle Matt Misha.

He also has gambling issues that resulted in him losing $6,000 in student loan money.

Family members say they called police on numerous occasions when Shahi became angry and started yelling. They say Shahi was picked up by officers and dropped off at a coffee shop or other places nearby because he couldn't be arrested.

Peel police cannot confirm if Shahi is known to them, public information officer Const. Thomas Ruttan said.

Fighter jets dispatched

Family members say they've tried to seek treatment for Shahi, but were told he can't be admitted against his will.

Shahi attended the University of Toronto briefly. He now goes to Lakehead University in Thunder Bay and has changed majors several times, family members say.

Shahi was travelling with his girlfriend at the time.

Flight 772 — with 181 passengers, two infants, two pilots and four flight attendants on board — turned around for the emergency landing after 45 minutes in the air.

The two U.S. F-16 fighter jets from Toledo, Ohio, were dispatched to escort the plane back to Toronto, North American Aerospace Defence Command (Norad) confirmed. The F-16s flew with the commercial plane out of U.S. airspace to Toronto as a "precaution."

The RCMP took the lead on the investigation once the plane landed at Pearson airport at 8:55 a.m. ET.

When the plane landed, a passenger said five or six officers with guns drawn boarded the plane and removed Shahi.

Shahi was charged with:

- Mischief to property.

- Mischief interfering of the lawful enjoyment of property.

- Uttering threats.

- Endangering the safety of an aircraft.

He is expected to appear in court on Saturday.

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