A man in the US has been charged with assault for slapping a crying baby on a Delta flight.
Joe Rickey Hundley, of Hayden, Idaho, was on Flight 721 descending into Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on February 8 when he allegedly slapped a 19-month-old boy who had been crying from “feeling the pressure in his ears.”
The boy’s mother, Jessica Bennett, told BFI agents that she tried to get her son to stop crying when Handley, seated next to her, demanded she “shut that n****r baby up,” reported ABC news.
Ms Bennett said that Joe Rickey Handley then turned around and slapped [the baby] in the face with an open hand, which caused the juvenile victim to scream even louder."
She said that the slap caused a scratch below her son’s right eye, which was bleeding. She told The Smoking Gun that Hundley “reaked of alcohol” and that he had consumed several double vodkas during the two-hour flight.
Ms Bennet said Hundley also accused her son, Jonah, of being too big to sit on her lap.
Fellow passengers claim to have witnessed the attack, including Todd Wooten, seated 12 rows ahead, who said he went to see what was going on after hearing “derogatory language” coming from the back of the plane. He claims to have then saw Mr Hundley hit the child.
Bennett told Twin Cities television stations on Saturday that the incident has caused her family a great deal of trauma and that her son had been outgoing but had since turned apprehensive of strangers.
Whilst Bennett and her husband have white skin, their adopted son is black.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a Delta spokesman said flight attendants separated the passengers and that crew members called upon authorities to deal with Hundley upon landing.
"I can only say it's an absolute falsehood," he told the paper, referring other questions to his attorney. Hundley also denied the incident in an interview with The Smoking Gun, and said he “asked the mother to quiet the child.”
Hundley claims he was “distraught” during the flight as he was en route to visit a hospitalized relative in Atlanta, and said he only had one alcoholic beverage.
Charged with assault, Hundley faces up to one year imprisonment if convicted.
Hundley has been dismissed from his job as an executive at AGC Aerospace & Defense.
In a statement the company said: "Reports of the recent behavior of one of our business unit executives while on personal travel are offensive and disturbing. We have taken this matter very seriously and worked diligently to examine it since learning of the matter on Friday afternoon. As of Sunday, the executive is no longer employed with the company."
"We wish to emphasise that the behaviour that has been described is contradictory to our values, embarrassing and does not in any way reflect the patriotic character of the men and women of diverse backgrounds who work tirelessly in our business."