Lawrence native helps subdue unruly airline passenger

Bill Nieder, Olympic gold medalist in the shot put, Lawrence native and graduate of Kansas University, told the Journal-World on Monday that he was on the Sunday night flight from Chicago to San Francisco on which a man caused an uproar, screaming “God is Great!” in Arabic and pounding on the cockpit door.

Nieder said he helped to bring down the man, later identified as Rageh Almurisi of Vallejo, Calif., who spread terror on the flight.

“I was one of three guys who threw him down, but I’ve had problems with my hip, so I wasn’t one of the ones holding him down,” Nieder said. “Three guys were holding him down until the flight landed. He was well taken care of. I went back to my seat to sit down and his head was under my seat.”

Nieder, 77, and his wife, Sharon, were returning from a four-month cruise around the world on the “Love Boat” ship on which the television series was based. The Nieders were sitting in first class when Nieder said the man ran down the aisle screaming the words that passengers fluent in Arabic identified as “God is great!” and then began pounding on the cockpit door, at which point he was restrained.

Nieder said the incident took place 10-to-15 minutes before the American Airlines flight landed.

“My wife was scared and thought he might have had a gun or a bomb or something,” Nieder said. “I think she was more shook up after it was all over.”

Nieder said he and his wife, driven two-and-a-half hours to their Angels Camp, Calif., home by a friend who met them at the airport, did not stay around the airport to do media interviews about the incident.