Naked man with ‘medical issue’ detained on Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Anchorage

Former state lawmaker Johnny Ellis was flying home to Anchorage from Seattle on Alaska Airlines on Monday when a naked man ran down the plane's aisle, yelling.

Two large men, one possibly the man's relative, followed and ultimately restrained him in the bathroom, Ellis said Tuesday by phone. The plane started to descend into Anchorage right after the incident occurred.

The incident left passengers rattled, he said.

The plane landed at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport without incident, according to an airline spokeswoman.

Police removed the man from Alaska Airlines Flight 107 after the plane parked at the gate, Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said. From there, he was taken to a hospital.

Airport police and fire chief Jesse Davis described the situation as "a medical issue."

Davis said that federal laws governing confidential patient information prevented him from providing additional information.


The man was on the plane with his parents and cooperated with officers, Davis said. No criminal charges were filed.

The incident marks the third in five months involving a disruptive passenger and a flight that ended up in Anchorage, illustrating the challenges of dealing with such unpredictable situations aboard an aircraft.

A man who stripped off his clothes and locked himself in a bathroom forced a Seattle-bound flight with 178 passengers to turn back for Anchorage in February.

He was taken to a hospital for a mental evaluation.

A United Airlines flight also diverted to Anchorage in January after a disruptive passenger began smearing feces in the bathroom.

Ellis, a Democrat, was first elected to the state House in 1986 but ended his legislative career as a state senator, retiring in 2016 after 29 years in the Legislature.

He said Monday's incident involved a tall man who appeared to be in his 20s or 30s.

Ellis tweeted about the incident Monday, sparking a series of national news headlines like "Ex-lawmaker: Naked man tackled on Alaska Airlines flight."

On Tuesday, Ellis said the man was "wiggling around" his arms but not waving.

Ellis has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair once off a plane. He waited for all the other passengers to leave before walking slowly off the plane, Ellis said. As far as he knew, the man was still in the bathroom.

All the flight attendants and crew he encountered behaved professionally and didn't share any personal information, he said. "They apologized for any inconvenience. They were completely nonspecific."

He posted a follow-up tweet on Tuesday saying the man didn't appear drunk in any way but may have been having some kind of psychotic break: "Sad not funny."

Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at zhollander@adn.com.