Crime & Courts

Police: Flight to Anchorage diverted, man arrested after he groped and kissed teen in the next seat

An Alaska Airlines flight to Anchorage was diverted to Seattle after a 23-year-old California man groped and kissed a 16-year-old girl in the next seat, according to a police report.

Alaska Airlines flight 137, on its way from Portland, Oregon, to Anchorage on Tuesday, made an unexpected stop at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport due to the incident, said airport spokesman Perry Cooper.

Port of Seattle police responded to the airport at about 2 p.m. for the report of "lewd contact" and subsequently arrested Jesse Salas, of Redondo Beach, California, the police report says. He was charged with fourth degree assault.

The airplane's crew told police the girl was trying to sleep when the groping occurred, the report says.

In an interview on the plane with police, the girl told an officer she felt someone grab her right thigh while her eyes were closed. She pushed the hand away, thinking it may have been a mistake, but was once again interrupted from her rest, she said.

Salas, according to the girl, kissed her on the mouth, using his tongue. She told police she felt violated and disgusted because Salas smelled and tasted like "stale beer," the report says.

She pushed Salas away and forcefully declined his advances but Salas continued to try and grab her thigh about five times, the police report says.

A third passenger in the same row asked the girl if she knew Salas, and when she said she did not, he alerted the crew, Cooper said. Salas and the girl were immediately separated, he said.

An officer spoke with Salas outside the plane at an airport gate. He reported that Salas appeared intoxicated. He bumped into passengers as they exited the plane. Salas cooperated with police and was arrested. He was booked at King County jail.

The plane had already passed the Seattle area when the pilot decided to divert the flight. It departed for Anchorage shortly after 3 p.m., Cooper said. The girl decided to continue her trip.

Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.