(CNN) – When a Delta Air Lines plane was taxed to the runway at LaGuardia Airport on Monday, an air traffic controller saw a man and a woman walking through the hallway.
“I need to get out of the plane. I do not want to sit here. I’m going to pop the door open,” the air traffic controller described him, saying.
The man felt he needed to leave, otherwise he would lose control, according to statements from a Tuesday arrest. He then pushed past the crew member, opened a cabin door and slid down the emergency slide with another passenger and their dog.
The man, identified as 31-year-old Antonio Murdock, and the other passenger, 23-year-old Brianna Greco, then walked away from the plane to the taxiway. They were later found in a confined area, authorities said.
Murdock and Greco are each charged with criminal misconduct, said Lenis Valens, a spokeswoman for the New York and New Jersey Port Authority.
Murdock was also charged with criminal malice and reckless danger, Valens said.
“I panicked. I’ve panicked. That’s it. I hurt no one,” Murdock said. “I have mental health issues.”
During the event on Tuesday, the pilot-in-command said there was no situation on the plane that necessitated Murdock to open the emergency door.
Jubril Oladiran, a lawyer for Murdock, did not comment to CNN when contacted.
CNN tried to reach Greco for comment, and it is unclear if she has legal representation.
Casey Johnson, a Manhattan resident who flies home to his family in Panama City Beach, Florida, told CNN that he swapped places with the couple and their dog at the gate.
Johnson said the couple was comfortable and nothing seemed unusual to him during their interaction.
He said the man, identified by authorities as Murdock, was “soft.”
Murdock asked to change ranks with Johnson, he said, so they could have the last time on the plane to accommodate their dog.
The aircraft was mostly full except for the middle seats, which were open in accordance with Delta’s Covid-19 policy. Minutes later, the pair again moved several rows forward, Johnson said.
“I actually remember thinking, ‘Well, you guys just asked me to swap rows with you because you wanted to be behind, and now all of a sudden you decided you wanted to be forward,'” he said.
Johnson, who was wearing headphones when the plane taxed for the asphalt, later noticed a commotion.
“And the next thing I know, I look up as we move, and I just see … I see a lot of people standing up, and I see four people running toward the front of the plane. And at this point it must have been passengers running to try to stop the person, “Johnson said.
He said he did not see the couple and their dog as they jumped out of the plane, but he saw the emergency exit was open in front of the plane near the cockpit.
Johnson said the pilot told passengers over the cabin speakers that the slide had been used and the door opened, but did not say the passengers had fled.
Johnson said the plane sat on the tarmac for more than an hour before returning to the gate.
After Murdock and Greco left the plane, the plane returned to the port and scheduled customers normally, Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said. The airline was able to accommodate the remaining passengers on alternative flights, he said.
“Maintenance technicians have evaluated the aircraft and (it) is scheduled to return to service,” Durrant said Monday night.
Murdock is due back in court on Feb. 9, and Greco is scheduled to appear on March 21, the Queens District Attorney’s Office said.
Valens, a spokeswoman for the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, said the dog was taken to an animal hospital in Brooklyn.
Greco was given a receipt to pick up the dog, Valens said.
CNN’s Ganesh Setty, Laura Ly, Hollie Silverman, Holly Yan and Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.