Arrested passenger ‘devastated’ by his conduct on Austin flight

Aaron Sweeney as he is escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight on July 7, 2017 (Courtesy/Lisa Birkman)
Aaron Sweeney as he is escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight on July 7, 2017 (Courtesy/Lisa Birkman)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The attorney representing the man accused of punching a passenger on a Tuesday flight out of Austin says his client is “embarrassed and devastated” by his actions.

Aaron Sweeney, 28, was arrested and charged with public intoxication, resisting transport/arrest and assault on a public servant for the July 11 incident at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Southwest Flight 3590 was about 30 minutes into its trip to Chicago when the captain decided to turn the plane around due to the incident.

“Aaron is a United States Army retired sergeant who bravely served two tours of duty in Afghanistan,” attorney Rick Flores, of Austin-based Minton, Burton, Bassett & Collins, said in a statement. “He is embarrassed and devastated over his recent conduct and looks forward to conveying his sincere apologies to everyone involved.”

Aaron Michael Sweeney (Austin Police Department)
Aaron Michael Sweeney (Austin Police Department)

Flores says while it does not completely dismiss his behavior, “I hope that the public is sympathetic to the realities of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of experiencing combat.”

KXAN spoke with the man involved in the altercation with Sweeney. Kyle Vogt said he was sitting toward the back of the plane in a window seat when he says Sweeney told him, “Once we’re done taking off, I’m going to beat the f— out of you.”

Once the plane was in the air, Vogt said Sweeney started punching him. “I just kind of covered my face as he proceeded to punch the back of my head and back.”

The flight crew and at least one fellow passenger stepped in to stop Sweeney, and the decision was made to head back to Austin. Vogt said he didn’t even know the man’s name. Sweeney is also possibly facing an additional, federal charge of interfering with a flight.

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