Flier who caused melee reaches deal

An Atascadero man who allegedly went on a drunken rampage after missing his United Airlines flight — accosting an airline employee, brawling with police officers and hurling bomb threats — faces a maximum six months in county jail, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Joel Elliott Decou, 25, pleaded no contest Tuesday to charges of felony assault on a police officer for the Sept. 8 incident. The alleged rampage occurred in front of a United Airlines boarding gate at San Francisco International Airport, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Decou, who police say was “heavily intoxicated,” says he has no recollection of the night he became unglued at the airport, Wagstaffe said.

Decou missed his first scheduled flight, was rebooked onto a later flight and showed up at the United boarding gate extremely drunk, Wagstaffe said. Then, in one sudden instant, Decou shouted a bomb threat to an airline employee and attacked another, putting the worker into a headlock, Wagstaffe said.

“No one knew why he did this, it was just out of the blue,” Wagstaffe said. “That was the part that was stunning.”

A San Francisco police officer assigned to patrol the airport arrived soon after, prompting Decou to release the airline employee. But Decou picked up a 30-gallon trash can and hurled it at the officer, Wagstaffe said. The 6-foot, 220-pound Decou then reportedly began fighting with the female officer until another officer arrived. It took both police officers and several helpful citizens to finally subdue him, Wagstaffe said.

Later that night, while in custody, Decou told police he did not remember any of what happened at the airport. He faces a maximum six-month prison term as a condition of his plea deal, Wagstaffe said. A judge says his sentence can be served in a residential alcohol-treatment program rather than a jail cell, Wagstaffe said.

“He obviously has an alcohol problem,” Wagstaffe said. “Now he is a felon in addition to that alcohol problem.”

Sentencing for Decou is set for July 30 before Judge Clifford Cretan, Wagstaffe said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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