MINNEAPOLIS – The family of a boy allegedly slapped by a fellow passenger on a flight to to Atlanta is speaking out.
“I could not believe he would say that and then hit him,” said Jessica Bennett. “I felt like i was in another world. I was shaking.”
In an interview on Saturday with KARE 11, the 19-month-old boy’s mother, Jessica Bennett, said the shocking incident has caused a great deal of emotional trauma for the entire family.
The incident allegedly happened February 8 while Bennett and her son were on a Delta flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta. Bennett says the man sitting next to her, Joe Rickey Hundley of Hayden, Idaho, became increasingly obnoxious and appeared intoxicated during the flight.
“He reeked of alcohol,” recalls Bennett. “He was belligerent and I was uncomfortable.”
As the plane descended to land in Atlanta, Bennett said her son started crying due to the pressure change. According to court documents, Bennett alleges Hundley leaned over and said, “Shut that [N-word] baby up!” before slapping the child near the boy’s eye. Bennett said the slap caused her son to bleed and cry even harder.
“[Joe] Hundley’s comments were racist and hateful,” said Bennett in a statment released by the family. “We have numerous questions about how a passenger could get so violently out of control as to assault a toddler.”
In an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, Hundley was charged with simple assault. The charge carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in jail.
“If he goes unpunished it would be awful,” said Jessica’s husband Josh. “We want to see this guy do some time.”
Hundley’s employer says he has been suspended from his position with Unitech Composites and Structures in Hayden, Idaho, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.
KARE 11 reached Hundley’s attorney, Marcia Shein of Atlanta, by phone on Saturday. Shein said her client will plead not guilty to the charge.
“Hopefully, this situation can be resolved. Both people are probably very nice. No one should rush to judgment,” said Shein.