A Tampa man has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman on a Southwest Airlines flight from Houston to Albuquerque on Sunday. After being questioned by law enforcement, Bruce Michael Alexander, 49, told authorities that “the President of the United States says it’s ok to grab women by their private parts,” according to a criminal complaint.
The woman, identified as C.W. in the complaint, said she “felt a hand from behind her grab the right-side of her right breαst” while in a window seat in front of Alexander. The complaint details the incident, which began when C.W. was sleeping on the flight. When she woke up to Alexander’s hand “at and around her ‘bra line,’” she dismissed it as an accident, according to the complaint.
Then half an hour later, she said, she felt a hand grab and squeeze her upper arm, then return to her right side, groping her chest area. The woman said she looked down to find a hand that was “hairy,” with “thick fingers” and “dirty fingernails.”
That’s when, according to the woman, she got up, reprimanded Alexander, and ordered him to stop touching her. Then she asked a Southwest crew member to change her seat, and she was relocated to the rear of the plane, according to the complaint. The woman and the alleged perpetrator both confirmed to authorities that they had not been intoxicated.
After being questioned by authorities upon the plane’s landing, Alexander was handcuffed. First he asked police what kind of sentence he might face if convicted of the charges against him, authorities said. Then, according to the complaint, he “stated that the President of the United States says it’s ok to grab women by their private parts.”
The incident is reminiscent of a similar altercation on a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Dallas last week, when a man — Justin Riley Brafford, 29, of Denton, Texas — was accused of repeatedly touching a female passenger sitting next to him and “playing footsies” with her — even following her and confronting her after she moved to a different seat, according to the Albuquerque Journal. Brafford was charged with interference with a flight crew and simple assault.
In August, the New York Times reported that sexual assault aboard aircrafts have become “an increasingly recognized problem for passengers,” growing by about 30 percent in the past four years. Some airlines are even introducing new policies regarding sexual assaults, and the FBI is encouraging victims to come forward. According to a survey by the Association of Flight Attendants, even flight attendants themselves routinely experience unwanted touching, but are often reluctant to tell their managers for fear of “retaliation from employers.”
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