California police say they thwarted a vigilante deportation attempt last week — in which a pilot allegedly kidnapped a foreign student, took him to an airport and tried to send him “back to China.”
Jonathan McConkey, a pilot and certified flight instructor, is accused of orchestrating the kidnapping with his assistant, Kelsi Hoser, a ground instructor. Both reportedly worked at the IASCO Flight Training school in Redding, Calif.
Among IASCO’s students were dozens of Chinese nationals with student visas, according to court records. KRCR News 7 reported the school contracted with China’s civil aviation authority to train its new pilots, one of whom was apparently Tianshu “Chris” Shi.
Shi, 21, told the Record Searchlight that he had been in the United States for about seven months — living with several other IASCO trainees at an apartment in Redding.
It was there, police said, that McConkey and Hoser came for the student.
The pair first showed up at the apartment on Thursday night, according to a police statement.
Shi told the Searchlight that they ordered him to pack and be ready to leave for China at daybreak.
“I said I didn’t receive any documents from China,” he said.
McConkey and Hoser didn’t explain why they wanted him out of the country, the student said, and police have not explained either. But Shi told the Searchlight that he had been forbidden to fly two months earlier, and suspected that his limited English was the problem.
An unrelated federal lawsuit, filed last year by a former instructor, alleges that many of IASCO’s Chinese students spoke so little English that they could not safely fly — that one had nearly crashed into another plane because he had misunderstood his teacher’s instructions.
The lawsuit predates Shi’s training, and does not mention Hoser or McConkey, who is reportedly a 48-year-old manager at the flight school.
In any event, police said the two employees returned to Shi’s apartment around dawn on Friday.
Shi had made up his mind by then not to go with McConkey and Hoser, and played an audio recording for the Searchlight of what he said transpired.
“You’re going home, with or without your luggage,” a man’s voice told Shi, as transcribed by the newspaper.
“If you cannot speak English, you are not going to be able to stay here,” added a woman whose voice alternated between English and Mandarin.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Avi Selk