A former Air Force officer who challenged the Pentagon's COVID-19 vaccine mandate all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court has been accused of threatening to shoot the captain of a Delta Air Lines flight while serving as the co-pilot.
Jonathan J. Dunn, who was authorized to carry a firearm in the cockpit, was indicted last month by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court of Utah for "interfering with the crew of a commercial airline" and for "using a dangerous weapon to assault and intimidate" the captain, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Transportation's inspector general.
Dunn, who now serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve, argued to the Supreme Court in 2022 that the COVID-19 vaccine took on a "sacramental quality" as the military sought to roll out the protection to the force, according to The Hill, and that it violated his morals.
"That makes COVID-19 vaccination a religious ritual required as a condition of participating fully in civil society -- like ancient Roman laws requiring sacrifices to Caesar, or Nebuchadnezzar's edict requiring worship of the golden statue," his lawyers told the justices, The Hill reported. "After much prayer, [Dunn] concluded that he cannot participate in such a religious ritual -- and thus cannot take the vaccine -- because, as a Christian, he must render worship to God only."
The Supreme Court ultimately denied his defense and protections from punishment.
A source familiar with his service confirmed that he was the same person who challenged the vaccine mandate while in the Air Force and who was indicted.
Meanwhile, a military command in Europe confirmed to Military.com that Dunn is an Air Force Reserve officer. He is "currently on orders as a reserve augmentee to the 603rd Air Operations Center (AOC) at Ramstein Air Base, Germany," a spokesman for U.S. Air Forces in Europe said in a statement.
The statement added that Dunn was "in qualification training to serve in the AOC at the time of the indictment and his absence will not impact the AOC's daily operations." Furthermore, the service said Dunn's access to sensitive information and the center's facilities was suspended, pending the outcome of judicial proceedings.
The Oct. 18 indictment, obtained by Military.com, alleges that Dunn did "assault and intimidate a crew member of an aircraft thereby interfering with the performance of the duties of the crew member."
Dunn had gotten into a disagreement with the captain about a potential flight diversion "due to a passenger medical event," according to the Department of Transportation's inspector general's office release.
"Dunn told the captain they would be shot multiple times if the captain diverted the flight," according to the inspector general.
Dunn was allowed to carry a firearm as part of the Transportation Security Administration's Federal Flight Deck Officer program -- a post-9/11 program from 2002 that allowed trained and licensed pilots to carry weapons to protect commercial airlines.
Neither the Department of Transportation's news release nor the federal indictment name the airline he flew for. Dunn faces one count of interfering with a flight crew, and his arraignment is set for Nov. 16. Contact information for Dunn's attorney was not listed in federal documents.
Delta Air Lines issued a statement this week saying that Dunn was no longer employed by the commercial carrier, according to The Associated Press. The news service also reported that his authority to carry a gun on board flights was revoked.
Delta did not immediately return a request for comment from Military.com.
Dunn was prior-active duty from 2003 to 2014 and reached the rank of major. He was commissioned as an officer through a four-year ROTC program, according to his service biography provided to Military.com.
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.