SWAT Team Storms Jetliner in Cleveland : Woman Holding Four Hostages Is Wounded; One Officer Injured
A woman armed with a pistol shot her way onto a Pan American World Airways jetliner Friday and injured an airline employee, then held four hostages for more than six hours until she was wounded by a SWAT team that stormed the Boeing 727, officials said.
The hostages, including an elderly couple and a woman with her 8-month-old baby, were released unharmed, FBI special agent Joseph Griffin said.
The middle-aged woman, who demanded to be flown to South America, originally took seven hostages when she commandeered the plane at Hopkins International Airport about 3 p.m., but she released three of them three hours later, Griffin said.
She held her four remaining captives at gunpoint until the SWAT assault about 9:25 p.m., the FBI agent said.
The SWAT team, made up of local police officers and FBI agents, attacked after the woman, identified as Oranette Mays, 42, of Cleveland, indicated that “she was tired, it was all over,” Griffin said.
Mays fired at a SWAT team officer wearing a bulletproof vest who entered the plane, striking him in the chest, Griffin said. The officer fired once in return, hitting the woman.
Mays and officer Jimmy Gnue were taken to a local hospital. Their conditions were not known. The elderly male hostage was hospitalized because of heart trouble.
“She had threatened the hostages,” Police Sgt. Roger Dennerell said. “She was pointing a gun at them.”
Griffin said the woman was acting “irrational” and described her speech as “rambling.”
Mays tried to bypass the metal detectors at the airport concourse but was challenged by security guards, said Dan Jones of Pritchard, the company that operates the airport’s metal detectors.
She drew a handgun and ran the 50 yards to the plane with at least three Cleveland police officers chasing her, Jones said.
Women with babies, who normally are seated on planes before other passengers, were boarding Pan American flight 558 as the woman ran aboard, and about two to four shots were fired, according to other travelers.
USAir customer service agent Jeanette Rivera, 32, of Bay Shore, N.Y., was shot as she tried to prevent the woman from boarding, officials said. Pan Am’s gate services in Cleveland are handled by USAir, a Pan Am official said.
Rivera was listed in fair condition at Southwest General Hospital with a superficial flesh wound of the left hip.
Mays told officials she wanted to go to Rio de Janeiro, Griffin said.
About 35 persons escaped through a rear door as the woman was taking her hostages, Griffin said.
“Somebody opened up the back door and we started to get out,” said Jim Savant of London, a passenger.
The plane, which had flown from Cincinnati to Cleveland with 35 passengers and five crew members aboard, was to have proceeded to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, a Pan American spokesman said.