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Originally published Monday, November 5, 2012 at 7:29 PM

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Pilot suspected in car theft, DUI hours before Japan flight

A pilot for a charter airline was arrested in SeaTac on suspicion of car theft and DUI, hours before he was scheduled to fly a commercial plane to Japan, the King County Sheriff's Office reported.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A 43-year-old pilot for Omni Air International, a charter airline out of Tulsa, Okla., was arrested Saturday night at a WallyPark in SeaTac on suspicion of car theft and DUI, hours before he was scheduled to fly a commercial plane from Seattle to Japan on Sunday morning, said the King County Sheriff's Office.

When contacted about the arrest, Jeff Crippen, president and CEO of the airline, said, "Wow. I don't have the full report. What we'll do is do a thorough investigation into the charges and go from there. That's all we can do. I can't comment on anything else."

According to the Sheriff's Office, the incident began at the parking lot of the Hilton Seattle Airport & Conference Center when a 66-year-old Bainbridge Island man said he got into his rental car at the Hilton and the pilot got into his back seat.

The report said the victim asked the pilot what he was doing in his car, and the pilot replied, "You know, you know."

The report said there then was "a brief exchange of words" and the Bainbridge Island man pointed a handgun at the pilot and told him to get out.

"A struggle ensued and the victim struck the suspect several times with the handgun. The victim got out of the car, and the suspect chased him around the car. The suspect then got into the driver's seat and fled in the victim's car," said the report.

SeaTac police, who are contracted by the Sheriff's Office to patrol that area, were called around 8:40 p.m., the report said.

The Sheriff's Office said that employees at the WallyPark, which is next to the Hilton, called to report "a suspicious, bloody male in the parking lot. When police arrived they found the suspect and the victim's car."

The pilot, who is from Oklahoma, was arrested and booked into King County Jail, the report said. He was released without bail just before 6 p.m. Monday.

According to its website, Omni Air's fleet includes Boeing 767s and 777s that can carry 240 to 380 passengers.

According to Perry Cooper, spokesman for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the flight was delayed 24 hours and took off for Japan at 7:30 Monday morning. He said it was listed as a Boeing 767-300.

The FAA said it was aware of the incident and investigating.

Seattle Times news researcher Gene Balk contributed.

Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or elacitis@seattletimes.com

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