Shoe Bomber

Shoe bomber Richard Reid was arrested on 22nd December 2001 for attempting to destroy American Airlines Flight 63 – a flight from Paris, Charles De Gaulle International Airport to Miami International Airport, USA – by igniting explosives hidden in his shoes.

Passengers on flight 63 complained of a smoke smell in the cabin shortly after a meal service. One flight attendant walked the aisles of the plane, trying to assess the source. She found Reid, who was sitting alone near a window and attempting to light a match. She warned him that smoking was not allowed on the airplane; Reid promised to stop.

A few minutes later, she found Reid leaned over in his seat; her attempts to get his attention failed. After asking “What are you doing?” Reid grabbed at her, revealing one shoe in his lap, a fuse which led into the shoe, and a lit match. She tried grabbing Reid but he pushed her to the floor and she screamed for help. When another flight attendant arrived to try to subdue him, he fought her and bit her.

Passengers and cabin crew eventually subdued him, some taking off their belts to strap him into his seat. A doctor used drugs from the airplane’s medical kit to sedate him. The Flight was diverted to Boston’s Logan International Airport, and escorted by two military jets. For the rest of the tense flight – the captain had warned that Reid might have accomplices onboard – passengers and crew guarded their prisoner, one of them keeping a grip on his long ponytail. Upon arrival at Boston, Reid was taken into custody.

Authorities later found PETN plastic explosives with a triacetone triperoxide (TATP) detonator hidden in the lining of his shoes. In court, Reid admitted eight charges: attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction; attempted homicide; placing an explosive device on an aircraft; attempted murder; two counts of interference with flight crew and attendants; attempted destruction of an aircraft; and using a destructive device during a crime of violence.

During the trial he openly declared himself an enemy of the United States and in league with Al-Qaeda. “Basically I got on the plane with a bomb,” he told the court with a laugh. “Basically I tried to ignite it. Basically, yeah, I intended to damage the plane. I am a follower of Osama bin Laden. I am an enemy of your country and I don’t care.” On 30th January 2003, Richard Reid was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.