ATLANTA - A 19-month-old boy is at the center of an FBI investigation after his mother said a stranger seated next to them on a flight from Minneapoli to Atlanta slapped the boy.
The toddler’s mother, Jessica Bennett, 33, told ABC News she was sitting in an aisle seat, alongside Joe Rickey Hundley, 60, a stranger on Feb 8 when the incident happened as the Delta plane began descending.
"Jonah starts crying because he’s feeling the pressure in his ears," Bennett said.
At that point, Hundley, according to court documents, told Bennett to "Shut that (n-word) baby up,"
Bennett said she asked the man to repeat what he said and he leaned toward her and repeated the expletive.
She said the man then slapped her son, causing him to bleed and causing his eye to swell.
A federal air marshal on the flight stepped in with other passengers to help.
In an interview with The Smoking Gun, which first reported the incident, Bennett said Hundley "reeked of alcohol."
Hundley was charged with assault in an Atlanta federal court.
His attorney, Marcia Shein, told ABC News that nobody should rush to judgment and that Hundley would be pleading not guilty.
Hundley told The Smoking Gun he had a single alcoholic drink and was distraught over a hospitalized relative he was going to visit.
The Associated Press said the company issued a new statement on Sunday saying that, while not referring to Hundley by name, calls reports of an executive's behavior on personal travel "offensive and disturbing" and says he "is no longer employed with the company." The statement does not say whether the executive quit or was fired.