Hyongtae Pae just wanted to calm his mind.
The 72-year-old retired farmer — on a Japan-bound United Airlines flight from Honolulu in March — was uninterested in being in his seat during the plane’s in-flight meal, according to an FBI criminal complaint cited by the Associated Press.
Instead, he ignored crew members instructions and went to the back of the plane to “meditate and do yoga,” according to the complaint.
Pae’s wife tried to intervene, attempting to persuade her husband to return to his seat, according to Reuters. The woman’s pleading only appears to have upset Pae more, and he became agitated and began yelling, Reuters reported.
“Pae pushed his wife because she was trying to make him stop,” the complaint said. “He felt that she was siding with the flight crew.”
After learning that Pae was growing aggressive, shouting at crew members and shoving his wife, the pilot decided to turn the plane around, according to the complaint.
Pae’s behavior continued to escalate and grow more erratic. He threatened to kill passengers and began screaming that God doesn’t exist, according to the AP.
At a detention hearing last week, the AP reported that Assistant U.S. Attorney Darren Ching told the court that when several Marines attempted to intervene — forcing Pae back to his seat — he attempted to bite and head-butt the soldiers.
A United Airlines spokesman told The Washington Post that the March 26 flight returned to Honolulu “due to a disruptive passenger” and was met by local authorities.
Once on the ground in a Federal Detention Center, Ching noted that Pae urinated on himself and was placed on suicide watch.
“While yoga and meditation can be beneficial activities, it doesn’t negate the need to obey flight crew instructions while in the air,” Tom Simon, a spokesman for the FBI’s Honolulu office told Reuters. “The fact that the defendant’s alleged misconduct caused the flight to be turned around in the air gives you an idea of the seriousness of this situation.”
Ching objected to Pae’s attorney’s request to allow Pae to return home to South Korea, because that would involve getting on a plane again.
Pae was released on $25,000 bond, but a judge denied his request to return to Korea. Temporarily barred from leaving the island of Oahu, Pae is being required to undergo a mental health evaluation.
Pae and his wife were in Hawaii to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.
His attorney, J.T. Kim, told Reuters that his client was sleep-deprived when the incident occurred. Pae also told the FBI that he hadn’t been able to sleep in 11 days, according to the AP.
“He was trying to calm himself down,” Kim said. “I guess that’s why he wanted to do some yoga, to calm himself down.”