Two U.S. Flight training school employees were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping a Chinese student in Redding, California, authorities said.
Jonathan McConkey, 48, a flight instructor worked at the IASCO flight training school, and his assistant Kelsi Hoser, 50, were both arrested and booked for conspiracy and kidnapping after they allegedly kidnapped a student pilot in training, who was identified as Tianshu Shi, and tried to send him back to China on Friday, according to the Redding Police Department.
McConkey and Hoser were still being held on bail as of Monday, Sgt. Danny Smetak of the Redding Police Department told Xinhua by telephone.
Police officers responded to the reported kidnapping at 1400 block of Trudie Trail in Redding. The victim's brother, who lives in Shanghai, China, spoke to Shi Friday morning. Shi told him somebody was at his apartment to take him away.
When Shi's brother did not hear back from him a short time later, he called and spoke to another flight student who told him Shi was just assaulted and taken away. Shi's brother subsequently called the Redding Police Department to report the kidnapping, according to a news release of the Redding Police Department after the incident.
During the investigation, officers learned McConkey and Hoser went to Shi's address Thursday night to advise him they are sending him back to China. They went to Shi's residence Friday morning to carry out this action. When Shi refused, McConkey battered him, and threatened physical violence if he did not go with them. Shi ultimately left with them in fear for his safety and was transported to the Redding Municipal Airport to be sent back to China. Officers located Shi, McConkey and Hoser at the airport.
Shi sustained only minor injuries and was later released by Police.
During an exclusive interview with the Record Searchlight, a local newspaper serving Redding, on Saturday, 21-year-old Shi produced an audio recording he said he made in the early hours on Friday when McConkey and Hoser showed up at his home. McConkey is reportedly the IASCO general manager.
In the audio recording, the McConkey and Hoser could be heard threatening Shi and tried to force him to follow them to the airport, the Record Searchlight reported.
According to the Record Searchlight, Shi has been in the United States approximately seven months. He arrived on an M-1 visa, which is given to students who enroll in vocational programs. He said his visa is valid for one year. But for the past two months, he had been "grounded," unable to fly or train. He said he had never had an issue with his flight skills, but suspected he was removed from training because of his English.
Another IASCO Flight Training student, Zhang Xun Yi, 24, also told the Record Searchlight in a report published on Sunday that he was confronted in his home by the program's manager and told he'd be sent home to China immediately over what he said was a small infraction of rules.
Shi told the Record Searchlight that he planned on hiring an attorney, while Yi planned on calling on the Chinese Embassy for help.
IASCO Flight Training currently offers training programs designed for international airline-sponsored student pilots. The programs provide ground and flight training for students to obtain FAA pilot certificates and then return to their country to become pilots at their sponsoring airline.
International students at IASCO Flight Training are required to use English in all their communications to better prepare them for their pilot careers.
IASCO approached the Chinese market and obtained new contracts that began in 2008. The Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) has approved the school for a capacity of 180 students in their approved training program, according to the school's website.