JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater may have been drinking long before he grabbed a beer and made a dramatic exit from a jetliner by opening an emergency slide to the tarmac at New York's Kennedy Airport, police said today.
Witnesses have also told police that it was Slater who was rude to passengers, and the cut on his forehead came at the beginning of the flight, not during an altercation with a surly passengeer after the plane landed as Slater has claimed.
The accusations emerged just hours before a subdued Slater appeared next to his lawyer outside his home. Slater declined to say anything because, his lawyer said, he was too "emotionally concerned" to speak.
Police tell ABC News that interview with the plane's crew and passengers suggest Slater began drinking before the Pittsburgh to New York flight. Crew members noticed Slater's eyes appeared bloodshot at the outset of the flight, and other witnesses told police Slater was drinking while aboard the plane.
The rudeness to passengers, according to accounts, started at boarding.
"He got on with issues," one police official told ABC News. "When they were boarding he was very obnoxious."
Police told ABC News that no passenger or flight crew member interviewed by police had any recollection of an argument between Slater and the female passenger who allegedly cursed and berated him before causing an overhead bin door to strike the flight attendant, sources say.
Witnesses have told police that the injuries to Slater's forehead had been incurred prior to any incident with a female passenger who couldn't fit her outsized carry-on bag into the overhead bin.
Witnesses recalled Slater continuing to serve food and beverages while still apparently bleeding.
Slater and his lawyer appeared before reporters today outside the flight attendant's Queens home. Slater wore a brown polo short and stood silently behind his lawyer, Howard Turman.
Through his lawyer, Slater thanked JetBlue, as a "wonderful airline" that he wants to continue working for. The airline has suspended Slater.
Turman also said that Slater has been very patient over the years and wants people to respect people in customer service roles.
Turman would not respond to reports that Slater was drinking on the plane, but did say that the injury to his head occurred in Pittsburg when two passengers were competing for overhead bin space.
The lawyer said that no beer companies have contacted Slater, who slid down the plane's chute after grabbing a couple beers, but he said a relaxation drink company had contacted him.
Slater's status as cultural hero who stood up to uncivil behavior has been tarnished, however. Marjorie Briskin, 53, told The Wall Street Journal that Slater blurted out an expletive at a female passenger on the flight.
"I didn't think she was rude in the least," Briskin told the paper. She also said that Slater had a "nice gash" on his head for most of the flight.
Another woman, 25-year-old Lauren Dominijanni, told the Journal that Slater was rude to her from the very beginning of the flight.
She told the paper that someone had spilled coffee on her seat, and when she asked for something to clean it up with, Slater "rolled his eyes at me and said, 'What?' in a real rude manner."