Man charged with assaulting American Airlines flight attendant claims she ‘charged at him and hit her nose against the palm of his right hand’

Defendant Brian Hsu at Denver International Airport
Defendant Brian Hsu at Denver International Airport Mackenzie Rose/Twitter
  • The California man charged with assaulting a flight attendant has told the FBI his side of the story.
  • Brian Hsu said a brain injury makes him sensitive to sound and causes a “mental fog” that impacts his thinking.
  • Witnesses said he punched the flight attendant mid-air, causing the plane to divert to Denver.

A California man charged with assaulting a female American Airlines flight attendant said she came at him and “hit her nose against the palm of his right hand,” according to an affidavit filed by FBI special agent Brandon Barnes.

In a Friday filing, FBI agent Barnes outlined the events that took place on a flight from New York City to Santa Ana, California in which 20-year-old Brian Hsu was accused of assaulting an American Airlines flight attendant mid-air. According to four witness statements outlined in the affidavit, Hsu was near the lavatory stretching when he had the altercation with the flight attendant.

Until now, only one side of the story was heard from witnesses, who said Hsu struck the flight attendant. One witness told Barnes that the flight attendant asked Hsu not to go near the lavatory, but he “punched her in the face with sufficient force to cause her to hit the lavatory door” in response. Another described the alleged hit as appearing “practiced or trained,” according to the filing.

However, the newly released affidavit gives the defendant’s side, and he’s blaming the flight attendant.

According to Hsu’s statement to Barnes, he inadvertently bumped the flight attendant and she responded by swinging her arms at his head and scaring him. Hsu told the agent that he then backed up and put his palm up defensively, but she “charged at him and hit her nose against the palm of his right hand.”

In the filing, Hsu said he was traveling home from Rhode Island where he had received surgery to repair parts of his skull that were damaged after he was attacked in New York City around fall 2020. According to Hsu’s statement, he was afraid that if the flight attendant were to hit his head, he could face life-threatening trauma.

Hsu told Barnes that he could not close his fist due to a football injury weeks prior, so he could not have punched the flight attendant as witnesses suggest. In the affidavit, Hsu’s mother corroborated his story, though she said his hand was injured during a workout. His mother also said in her statement that Hsu “seems to become more easily angered” after his injury.

Hsu told Barnes that his brain injury sometimes causes him to have a “mental fog” that impacts his thinking. Moreover, according to the filing, he said the damage has led him to be sensitive to sound and suffer from psychological issues like nausea and dizziness.

According to the flight attendant’s statement, Hsu attacked her. In the filing, the victim said Hsu struck her head with his elbow and used a closed right fist to punch her in the face after she asked him to sit down due to the “fasten seatbelt” sign being lit. After the altercation, other passengers used tape and plastic bonds to restrain the defendant, according to the affidavit, and the filing cited the flight attendant suffered from bleeding and a concussion.

Brian Hsu is charged with assault and interference with a flight crew after he allegedly attacked the flight attendant mid-air and forced a diversion to Denver on October 27, according to court documents. Reuters reported Hsu made an appearance in a California court on Monday where he was released on a $US10,000 ($AU13,461) bond, ordered to appear in a Denver court on November 15, and instructed to undergo a mental health evaluation.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker described the incident in a video on Instagram as “one of the worst displays of unruly behavior we’ve ever witnessed.”