Dana Ghazi Mustafa is the North Carolina woman who threatened to “stab everyone” during a flight from Germany to Virginia on February 22, 2020. According to a criminal affidavit, Mustafa also said she would kill herself, adding, “I’m Palestinian! That’s how we get down.”
Prosecutors with the Eastern District of Virginia say Mustafa kicked a Federal Air Marshal and resisted being handcuffed after a flight attendant told her she was not allowed to smoke on the plane. The arresting officer said Mustafa smelled strongly of alcohol at the time.
If convicted of assaulting a federal agent, Mustafa faces a maximum sentence of eight years behind bars. A judge decided she could be released from custody, but Mustafa’s travel was limited and she was ordered to undergo mental health testing.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Mustafa Told the Flight Attendant She Was Upset Over the Recent Deaths of Family Members, But Later Admitted the Story Was a Lie
Dana Ghazi Mustafa traveled on United Airlines flight 933 on February 22 when she attracted the attention of federal officers also on board. According to the criminal complaint, Mustafa tried to smoke at least three times during the flight.
Flight attendants first spoke with Mustafa after a smoke detector went off in the plane’s bathroom. An attendant told her she was not allowed to smoke and asked her to return to her seat.
The affidavit states the crew then “observed that Mustafa was crying and visibly upset.” She told one of the flight attendants she had just lost her family members. She claimed they had been killed in a car crash caused by a drunk driver. The crew moved Mustafa to a more comfortable seat.
Once in the new seat, Mustafa punched the TV monitor on the back of the seat and threw a coin, according to the affidavit. A few minutes later, she got up again and walked “to the rear of the plane while striking the flint of a flighter.” Again, a flight attendant told Mustafa to go back to her seat and to stop smoking. Mustafa complied.
But after another 10 minutes, Mustafa got up again to smoke. This time, she pushed a flight attendant and attempted to shut herself in the lavatory. Two federal officers on board the plane intervened at this point.
2. Federal Agents Found a Half-Empty Bottle of Vodka In Dana Mustafa’s Bag After She Had Kicked One of the Officers
Federal Air Marshal Thomas Ferrara, who prepared the criminal complaint, explained two officers stepped in when Dana Mustafa attempted to shut herself in the lavatory. He described her as “combative” and that she refused to comply with the order to go back to her seat.
According to the affidavit, Mustafa resisted being put in handcuffs and yelled at the officers to leave her alone. After the handcuffs were in place, the Federal Air Marshals took a burned-out cigarette and a lighter away from her. Ferrara said Mustafa yelled at the officers again and kicked one of them in the shins multiple times. During the exchange, the officers could smell alcohol on Mustafa.
Once Mustafa had calmed down, the officers searched through her bag and found a half-empty bottle of Absolute Vodka. She was seated next to one of the officers for the remainder of the flight.
3. Dana Mustafa Threatened to Stab the Federal Officer & Everyone On the Plane
Once Dana Mustafa was seated next to the federal officer, she calmed down but continued to make verbal threats. According to the affidavit, Mustafa said she wanted to punch one of the officers in the face and that she was imagining what it would be like to stab him.
She also expressed suicidal thoughts while threatening violence against the rest of the passengers on the plane. “I’m going to stab everyone on the plane. Then kill myself. I’m Palestinian! That’s how we get down.” She added, “What’s the point of living?”
Mustafa also complained about losing the bottle of alcohol. “I was allowed to drink my duty-free bottle of vodka on my previous flight.”
After landing at Dulles International Airport, an FBI agent interviewed Mustafa. During that conversation, she also admitted that the story about her family being killed by a drunk driver had been a lie.
4. Mustafa Must Complete Mental Health Testing & Avoid Drinking Excessively As Part Of Her Release
The Alexandria Sheriff’s office detained Dana Ghazi Mustafa after the plane landed in Virginia. Inmate records show she was booked into custody at 11:30 p.m. on February 22. Two days later, she was transferred to federal custody.
Federal court records show Mustafa is being represented by public defender Cadence Mertz. Heavy has reached out to Mertz to ask about the possible defense and whether Mustafa has expressed remorse for the actions described by the Federal Air Marshal.
Mustafa made her first court appearance on February 24. She did not enter a plea and did not speak, according to NBC Washington. The judge allowed Mustafa to be released from custody while the case proceeds, but there were several conditions. Unless she is traveling to the Eastern District of Virginia for court, she is barred from leaving the middle district of North Carolina without permission from Pretrial Services or court officials.
Mustafa was ordered to undergo mental health testing and treatment as determined by Pretrial Services. The judge also ordered Mustafa to refrain from abusing alcohol but did not prohibit her from drinking entirely.
5. Dana Mustafa Works As a Teacher, According to Social Media Profiles
According to a since-deleted Facebook page, Dana Ghazi Mustafa worked as a teacher at Magnolia Montessori. A screengrab of the page is embedded above. We have blacked out the face of the child in the profile picture. She listed Durham, North Carolina as her hometown.
But on her LinkedIn page, which also lists her employer as Magnolia Montessori, she linked to a school located in Mississippi. Heavy has reached out to the school to verify when Mustafa may have worked there. The school’s website does not include a list of current staffers.
Mustafa’s LinkedIn page also lists a job as a primary school teacher at Erwin Road Montessori School in Durham, North Carolina. Heavy sent a message to the general email for the school. We received a response that a Dana Mustafa worked at the school “several years ago.”