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Ex-Olympian crashes into Fla. airport terminal

A former Olympic wrestler who defected from Cuba in 1997 crashed his sport utility vehicle into a crowded terminal at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, slamming into a ticket counter and smashing through a wall, officials said
/ Source: The Associated Press

A former Olympic wrestler who defected from Cuba in 1997 was charged Wednesday with committing airport violence by crashing his sport utility vehicle into a terminal at the Fort Lauderdale airport.

Alexis Vila Perdoma was charged after the FBI concluded he intentionally drove through two plate-glass doors at 45 mph and slammed through a Southeast Airlines ticket counter on Sunday.

Vila, 33, suffered minor scrapes. No one else was injured, even though several people were near the doors.

He was turned over to federal agents Wednesday, and an initial court appearance was set for Thursday. Vila faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted on the federal charge. It could not be determined if he has an attorney.

Vila, of Williamston, Mich., was involuntarily committed for a psychiatric evaluation after he was subdued by an air marshal and police.

A three-page FBI affidavit offered no motive. Investigators found no skid marks where the SUV jumped the curb, crossed the sidewalk and crashed through the terminal until stopped by a wall.

Arriving fights were rerouted to other terminals, and outbound passengers were directed to a different security checkpoint.

At the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, Vila won the bronze medal for Cuba in the 105.5-pound division. He defected after winning a gold medal at the 1997 Pan American Games in Puerto Rico.