FO Says Shooting Threat Was A Joke


Jonathan J. Dunn, a former Delta Air Lines first officer who allegedly threatened to shoot his captain after suggesting to divert for a passenger’s medical emergency, called the incident a “misunderstanding” and joke, as reported by the Associated Press (AP). 

According to the news agency, Dunn, who was charged with interfering with a flight crew, made his first court appearance Thursday in Salt Lake City after being indicted by a grand jury on Oct. 18, 2023. 

The altercation between Dunn and the captain, who remains unnamed, occurred back in August 2022 on a flight from Atlanta to Salt Lake City. New details reveal Dunn allegedly became agitated when the captain proposed diverting to Grand Junction, Colorado, if the passenger’s condition worsened. Dunn, a member of the Federal Flight Deck Officer program at the time, then threatened to shoot the captain multiple times, according to court documents. 

AP reported that Dunn admitted to threatening the captain but intended it as a joke. His lawyer argued that he should not be deemed a threat as he has no prior criminal record. 

However, Dunn, a former Air Force reserve officer, has a history of legal disputes. In a previous case, he filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against the Pentagon in an attempt to avoid disciplinary actions by the Air Force for refusing the COVID-19 vaccination. He was later relieved of his command for “poor judgment and abuse of authority.” 

If convicted, Dunn could serve 20 years in prison. His trial is set for March 12.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. I don’t get how this can be a defense. People get in serious trouble all the time for making these kinds of “jokes” at TSA security check points.

  2. Agreed- unless I knew someone very well I couldn’t tell 100% if they were joking- so in the air I’d have to assume the worst- sounds like such a lame excuse and highly unprofessional

  3. I disagree. If the guy pulled out the gun, that’s a threat. The Captain, and some other people, need to get a sense of humor.

    • History has shown that “jokes” like threatening to shoot someone have a sad likelihood of becoming real. There’s nothing funny about this at all, and at best is a complete failure of professional crew resource management on the FO’s part.

    • Maybe. But here’s the thing. This guy had a badge and a gun. People who have badges and guns should NEVER joke about shooting their co-workers. Threats of potentially life-taking violence are never funny. As this joker is finding out.

    • Wrong: A verbal threat is a statement made to someone else in which the speaker declares that they intend to cause the listener harm, loss, or punishment. If the person recites these words while wielding a baseball bat or firearm then this could be viewed as a verbal assault.

      A verbal threat becomes a crime when:

      The speaker threatens to harm or kill the listener or the listener’s family;
      The speaker’s threat is specific and unambiguous;
      The listener has reasonable belief and fear that the speaker will carry their threat out; and
      The speaker communicates the threat either verbally, in writing, or through electronic correspondence (e.g., email, text message, etc.).

      Jaclyn Wishnia, Esq.
      Frank Tino : Airline Crewmember, Pilot, 39 Years in Criminal Judicial System, Police Chief, ANG retired.

  4. Let’s spin the wheel of the Bully’s Defense:
    1. I was only joking
    2. You have no sense of humor
    3. You’re over-reacting
    4. It’s no big deal

  5. Well … just tell HIM that we’re taking away your FFO authorization while saying, “this is no joke.” Even if he was joking, this is like yelling, “FIRE” in a theatre.

  6. I like how the report seeks to throe fuel on the fire by raising the vaccination incident as if it were an isolated incident, many many officers and enlisted refused the vaccine with similar consequences

  7. Yet another reason I bid international trips, and thus don’t have to deal with this crap.

    I have never liked the FFDO program. More than a few of the pilots at my carrier that carry the badge imho have no business owning a firearm, let alone carry one onto the flight deck- being gun nuts that love the chance to get a discounted Sig and swagger with their holster, and not much else.

    FFDO was a knee jerk reaction to 9-11, and with the advent of armored cockpit doors and post 9-11 vigilant passengers and cabin crew it’s superfluous. Ditch this program before someone gets hurt, and leave law enforcement to real cops.

    • Interesting insights. I’m curious if you own a firearm – or if your opinions are influenced by being an anti-gun person. Either way, I think we can agree that the FFDO program requires some very stringent screening when determining who is allowed to carry onboard. Personally, if I’m aboard a commandeered flight – I’d like a god guy onboard with the ability to take out the threat either through careful use – or threatened use of – an available weapon.

  8. Who thought the idea of a loaded firearm in a pressurized passenger cabin was a good idea? The FFDO program may be necessary (the jury’s out on that, imho) but if so, let’s not arm them with any weapon that could bring the whole plane down. There are plenty of non-projectile means of dealing with an uncooperative passenger (zipties, TASER, chloroform). Morons like this one can “joke” all they want when all they have is a plastic butter knife.

  9. “It was just a joke” is apparently less believeable than “It was the shrooms.” Books need to be thrown at the respective perps.

  10. The FO should be penalized heavily for his “joke” as this is not particularly funny. I was Infantry in the ’70’s Army and we’d make jokes like this all the time but on an aircraft…NO.

  11. If the Capt. had a previous altercation with Dunn, as reported in this article, why did he accept the crew pairing for this trip? The Capt. did do the right thing by reporting the incident. I haven’t heard the CVR recordings of the alleged crime as I am sure most haven’t. The grand jury felt there was enough evidence to put Dunn on trial. To his guilt, or innocence, this is all we have for now. Let the legal system do its job.

    As far as the vax goes I give Dunn, and all of the other military members who denied the vax, a gold star(s) for sticking up for their bodies (or not “sticking” their bodies).

    Speaking of new regulations…….In about two years the FAA will come forward with a bunch of new mental tests for all of us, starting with 121 pilots likely, thanks to Dunn. These new rules will likely be dubbed the “Dunn In” , “Dunn It”, “All Dunn” regs.

    • See “NopeNotThat’s comment below re: vaccinations. Forgotten about the other disease vaccinations that have saved millions of lives? Sticking up for their bodies? Oh please. Just stupid.

      • The Fauci Ouchy didn’t do much of anything to prevent transmission/”save millions” though, and anybody who did his or her own research into the matter could see that well before this vaccine became mandatory.

        Other vaccines have been proven to work. This one has been a proven failure.

        • C19 vaccines (there are a few) have thus far prevented millions and millions of gruesome deaths, including several friends and relatives of mine who allowed themselves to be hoodwinked into forgoing the jab by conspiracy theorists like some here. Choosing to abstain from a vaccine due to profound ignorance is misguided. Promoting abstinence by others out of profound ignorance is damnable.

          • C19 vaccine prevented gruesome deaths?? Did they fall into a meat grinder?? Can you cite the reference for millions and millions of people saved? Ignorance works both ways.

  12. I agree with the majority here. There are some topics that aren’t a joke and the incident calls into question the intellect, the judgment, and related ADM of the first officer. I also agree that the evidence should dictate the course of action taken by the court regardless of my opinions.

  13. Lots of idiots who rejected vaccination from covid died or killed a member of their family by being a transmission vector. Way to go numnuts. Nobody seems to care much about putting microplastics in their body nor taking umpteen other vaccinations. Just stupid. Not nearly as stupid as using the words “I’ll shoot you” to a stranger on a flight while armed but right up there…and far more deadly.

    • Other than this was likely the first approved vaccine in history that doesn’t do crap to reduce transmission… And, as Pfizer disclosed, they never cared whether it would or not! Just after the billions they could make if they got something approved.

      Remember all the BS they fed us about herd immunity? A real vaccine would have succeeded in that, not this one though. Seems the vaccine was an utter failure, and those who refused it were the smart ones.

      • You are sadly misinformed. My good and extremely healthy friend and several of my customers listened to the conspiracy theorists like you and joined the many millions who died very gruesome deaths worldwide due to Covid19. How so many people with grade school or high school educations suddenly decided they had Phd’s in virology–and that actual expertise cannot be trusted–is a very sad story. Even DJT–lord and savior to many of these folks–knows and occasionally has had the courage to promote the extremely clear safety and efficacy of the Covid19 vaccines, which have thus far saved many many millions of lives. But the flat-earthers are convinced it’s all a conspiracy because big pharma made zillions of dollars. (Yes. They did. Two things can be true.) PS. Firearms on the flight deck are just about as dumb. Happy new year.

  14. America has a problem with guns; too many, carried by the wrong people, in the wrong places.
    There is no place for a gun in the cockpit of an aircraft; period!
    Terminate this program before the inevitable happens.
    (Can’t wait for some of the less hinged types in Congress start shooting; it will happen!)

    • I partially agree.

      Its not that there are too many guns but rather too many good people don’t carry them. Either out of governmental restriction of their rights or convenience. I wish more good Americans carried all the time. The best solution to a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun.

      This does not necessary apply to the cockpit.

  15. I’m not a big fan of the FFDO program, BUT, for those whose object to the program, do you remember 9/11. The cockpit crew is the LAST line of defense.

    My biggest objection is that (as said many times above) there are many FFDOs who belong to the program for the wrong reasons. During my time at FredEx, I flew with many FFDOs, on a freighter with only he and I onboard!!!! I thought the program in the freight world was unnecessary, however, remember Auburn Calloway? The original hijacker was a Flying Tigers/FredEx pilot!

    If this guy actually pulled out his gun (which is likely) lock him up and throw away the key.

  16. A “joke” huh? Well, you’re fired, and that’s not a joke.

    Dear FAA pull this lunatics license and all flight qualifications.

  17. Yeah, a professional pilot would know, (and be intelligent enough) that you don’t joke around with comments like “shooting your Captain”
    He is an idiot, and should never be allowed on the flight deck again.
    On a personal note…
    I find that pilots who desire to carry a gun on board an aircraft, and wanna play “cop” are skewed in their thinking (or lack of it) and tend to be egomaniacs. There is fundamentally something wrong with them.
    It isn’t enough to be in command of the aircraft, they also desire the power of life and death should anyone question their authority.