(CNN) – As a Delta Air Lines plane taxied to the runway at LaGuardia airport on Monday, a flight attendant saw a man and woman walking down the hall.
“I need to get off the plane. I don’t want to sit here. I’m going to open the door,” paraphrased the commissioner.
The man felt he needed to leave or he would lose control, according to statements at an indictment hearing on Tuesday. He then pushed the crew member, opened the cabin door and slid down the emergency slide with another passenger and his dog.
The man, identified as Antonio Murdock, 31, and the other passenger, Brianna Greco, 23, left the plane for the taxiway. They were later found in a restricted area, officials said.
Murdock and Greco face charges of criminal invasion, said Lenis Valens, spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Murdock was also accused of criminal malice and reckless danger, Valens said.
“I panicked. I have panic attacks. That’s it. I didn’t hurt anyone,” said Murdock. “I have mental health problems.”
During the prosecution on Tuesday, the commissioner said there was no situation on the plane that would force Murdock to open the emergency door.
Murdock’s lawyer, Jubril Oladiran, did not comment on CNN when contacted.
CNN tried to contact Greco for comment, and it is not clear whether she has legal representation.
Casey Johnson, a Manhattan resident flying home to his family in Panama City Beach, Florida, told CNN that he switched places with the couple and their dog at the gate.
Johnson said the couple was pleasant and nothing seemed out of the ordinary to him during the interaction.
He said the man, identified by authorities as Murdock, was “soft-spoken”.
Murdock asked to change rows with Johnson, he said, so they could have the plane’s last aisle to accommodate his dog.
The plane was almost full, except for the middle seats left open in accordance with Delta’s Covid-19 policy. Minutes later, however, the couple moved forward several ranks again, Johnson said.
“I really remember thinking, ‘Well, you just asked me to switch lines with you because you wanted to stay in the rear and now, all of a sudden, you decide you want to be forward,'” he said.
Johnson, who wore headphones while the plane taxied to the runway, later noticed a commotion.
“And the next thing I know, I look up while we’re moving, and I just see … I see a lot of people standing, and I see four people running towards the front of the plane. And at that point those must be passengers who were running to try to, like, stop the person, “said Johnson.
He said he didn’t see the couple and their dog when they jumped off the plane, but he saw that the emergency exit was open in front of the plane near the cabin.
Johnson said the pilot told passengers over the cabin’s speakers that the slide had been triggered and the door opened, but he did not say that the passengers had fled.
Johnson said the plane was stopped on the runway for more than an hour before returning to the gate.
After Murdock and Greco left the plane, the aircraft returned to the gate and landed customers normally, said Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant. The airline was able to accommodate the remaining passengers on alternative flights, he said.
“Maintenance technicians have evaluated the aircraft and (it) is scheduled to return to service,” said Durrant on Monday night.
Murdock is due to return to court on February 9, and Greco is due to appear on March 21, Queens prosecutors said.
Valens, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said the dog was taken to an animal shelter in Brooklyn.
Greco received a receipt to rescue the dog, Valens said.
CNN’s Ganesh Setty, Laura Ly, Hollie Silverman, Holly Yan and Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.