Fight Over Reclined Airline Seat Leads to Ear Attack and Arrest

An American Airlines passenger got so mad about a fellow passenger's reclined seat he pulled the man's ear hard enough to knock his glasses off.

Tomislav "Tom" Zelenovic, 38, of Santa Monica, Calif., has been charged in U.S. District Court in Denver with attacking fellow passenger Brian Robert Dougal during an American Eagle commuter jet flight last week from Los Angles to Denver.

According to a criminal complaint, filed by FBI Special Agent Joel Nishida, the attack was witnessed by fellow passengers on Flight 3029. The Embrarer 140 aircraft had 31 passengers onboard.

"About 10 to 15 minutes into the flight, Dougal reclined his seat to sleep. As he reclined his seat, he felt someone bump his seat from the back," Nishida writes in the arrest warrant. Dougal heard the person seated behind him, identified as Tomislav Zelenovic, say, 'Are you serious? My knees are up against the seat.'"

Dougal suggested that Zelenovic might also recline his seat or move to an adjacent empty seat. He also told Zelenovic "that he paid for his seat and was going to recline it," the agent writes. "Zeleonvic then shook the back of Dougal's seat two to three times then grabbed Dougal's right ear and pulled it back and down. The force was enough to knock Dougal's glasses off his face."

A flight attendant was summoned by Dougal, and Zelenovic was reseated. Dougal said he wanted to press charges. The plane's Captain reported the incident and officers from the Denver Police Department met the flight on arrival and escorted Zelenovic off the plane.

Dougal told authorities the attack left his right ear ringing for most of the flight. One of the responding officers reported Dougal's right ear "was red in color an that his glasses were askew."

Zelenovic was charged with one count of "assault by striking, beating, or wounding on an aircraft," and faces up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

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