A Milwaukee man was arrested by Charlotte Mecklenburg police and charged with intoxicated and disruptive behavior Saturday after he allegedly berated Milwaukee County Sheriff and popular conservative speaker David A. Clarke Jr. throughout a two-hour flight from Milwaukee to Charlotte, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Clarke is a well known champion of conservative causes and was a speaker at this year’s Republican National Convention. He is known as a supporter of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Flight passenger Preston Bluntson, 36, was arrested by police at around 7:10 p.m. Saturday. Both Bluntson and Clarke are African American, and Bluntson appeared to be familiar with Clarke’s political affiliations and said the sheriff was “not one of us.”
A passenger on the American Airlines flight, who asked not to be named, told the Journal Sentinel that Bluntson became increasingly loud and disruptive, directing many comments at Clarke, who was at the back of the small plane.
“The guy was very abusive,” the passenger said.
When the plane landed, Clarke held Bluntson down, and a Charlotte officer boarded the plane and handcuffed him, according to the passenger. Three or four other officers then met Bluntson when he left the plane, and Clarke filled out paperwork on the incident, the newspaper reported. Bluntson was released on bond from the Mecklenburg County jail on Sept. 25.
The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release on the incident, saying that Clarke intervened midway through the flight when a man became profane and began harassing flight crew and passengers.
“The sheriff left his seat...and told the man to ‘chill out.’...The man continued his obnoxious behavior and on approach to landing he got out of his seat...While the plane taxied to the gate he began taunting the sheriff, asking him what he was going to do about it,” said the statement from the Sheriff’s Office.
“Clarke ordered him to sit down and when he refused, Clarke shoved the unruly passenger face down and pinned him against the seat and held him there until the flight arrived at the gate.”
Clarke was elected as a Democrat in a heavily Democratic county, but his political views align with conservative Republicans. He travels regularly to speaking and media events, and to promote the candidacy of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. The Journal Sentinel says he was on his way to New Hampshire, where he was a featured guest for the Cheshire County Annual Republican Shoot Sunday.
In a statement released Sept. 26, Clarke said he believes the incident should be reviewed by the United States Attorney’s Office to send a message of deterrence to passengers about interfering with flight crews and intimidating passengers. He has also expressed disappointment that there was no air marshal on board who could have intervened.
Some media outlets around the country have been praising Clarke for his handling of the situation, including such headlines as: “Drunk Airline Passenger Picked the Wrong man to Harass” and “Sheriff Clarke gets last laugh after drunk passenger harasses him during 2-hour flight.”