NISHAL KIRAN SANKAT, the son of retired UWI St Augustine campus principal Prof Clement Sankat, boarded an American Airlines A321 airbus at the Melbourne International Airport in Orlando on Thursday morning with the intention of harming himself. He had no regard for the possibility of injuring anyone else.
This was the evidence recorded after Sankat, 22, appeared before US judge Rhonda Babb yesterday in the Brevard County Jail. Sankat was arrested on Thursday morning after he parked his car about 150 yards from the plane, jumped the perimeter fence and boarded the aircraft.
Airport spokesperson Lori Booker said Sankat reached the flight deck of the plane before two technicians and two security guards detained him before he could attempt to start the aircraft. When Sankat appeared before Babb, US state officials brought two officers to bolster their three charges against him.
The two witnesses were FBI Special Agent David Joseph Hacker and Agent Castiello. Hacker testified that on Thursday he was called to the airport for a suspected “terrorist incident”. He said that during an interview, Sankat told him he wanted to hurt himself and had no regard of the potential of harming others.
FOR 3 CHARGES
Agent Hacker said while the plane was being serviced at the time, it was able to take off. Sankat is a student at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) where he is studying aviation management. Hacker said there were several other factors that came out of the interview that concerned the authorities, which he did not divulge during his brief testimony.
Sankat was charged with unarmed burglary of an occupied conveyance (a car), which Babb found there was probable cause for a charge.
She found the same for a charge of trespassing and initially questioned the charge of grand theft, which she said was not established based on what Hacker testified. “I don’t see how they say he had intent on stealing the aircraft. I did not get that from the testimonies,” Babb said adding that there was nothing she read or heard that justified that determination. Hacker was then allowed to clarify the state’s case saying that during the interview, Sankat said that in the process of harming himself he planned to take the aircraft.
Babb was then convinced there was probable cause for all charges. She said Sankat was a threat to both himself and others and was placed on a US$500 bond for grand theft. He was also told not to go to the airport or contact anyone there.
Through Hacker, the court heard that Sankat was receiving a stipend from his parents and had dual citizenship with TT and Canada. As the state prosecutor sought to question Hacker on Sankat’s finances, after learning he shared a bank account with his parents and received a stipend from them, Babb intervened asking the relevance.
CAN SANKAT FLEE?
The prosecutor said he was determining whether Sankat had the means to flee the jurisdiction before trial, which begins on October 18. After Hacker testified, it was Castiello’s turn. He is based at the Brevard County Sheriff’s office and assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorist Unit. Castiello said he was called to the airport between 2.30 and 3 am to interview a main witness identifoed as Shane Greaves.
Greaves, an employee at STS Mod Center, was doing maintenance work when he noticed Sankat on-board without a security clearance pass. Greaves, Castiello continued, told him that Sankat was taken to the hangar in a golf cart and while there, he tried to escape, but was pursued and held before police arrived and Sankat handed over.
Sankat, who was shackled both at the wrists and feet appeared dazed throughout yesterday court appearance which was recorded via court tv and aired ‘live’ on social media including in TT.
Sankat told Babb he had no questions for Hacker or Castiello. Earlier, he spent what Babb felt like an inordinate amount of time, perusing a document relating to his charges.
Babb was informed that Sankat was seen by a medical team. Babb was also informed by Sankat that he tried unsuccessfully to contact his family, saying he called their number but no one answered.