Pastor ‘smacked his wife and flipped her the bird’ in the middle of a flight when she got upgraded to first class without him

The ugly physical attack occurred July 2 aboard an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Anchorage. (Roger Allan Holmberg Fan Club/Facebook)
The ugly physical attack occurred July 2 aboard an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Anchorage. (Roger Allan Holmberg Fan Club/Facebook)

An elderly evangelical pastor is facing federal charges for allegedly assaulting his wife on an airplane because she got upgraded to first class and he didn’t.

The ugly physical attack occurred July 2 aboard Alaska Airlines flight 275 from Seattle to Anchorage, after Roger Allan Holmberg Sr., 75, verbally abused his spouse and flipped her the bird in front of a cabinful of horrified travelers, according to a criminal complaint obtained by The Independent.

The couple were traveling to Alaska from their home in Virginia for a meeting “related to their ministry,” states the complaint, which was filed July 3. It says the Holmbergs knew each other for some 20 years before marrying a year-and-a-half ago, following the death of Holmberg’s previous wife.

Holmberg, who does not have an attorney listed in court records and is due to make his initial appearance in Anchorage federal court on Monday morning, remains detained and was unable to be reached for comment. A phone number listed for him in public records was out of service on Sunday night. Holmberg’s 59-year-old wife, whose name The Independent is aware of but withholding for her privacy, did not respond to voicemails and texts seeking comment.

According to the complaint, a passenger who was sitting in first class next to Holmberg’s wife, who is not identified by name in the filing, said things began to go south shortly after the 3.5-hour flight got underway.

In the first of three separate incidents, Holmberg, who was flying coach, confronted his wife at her seat, the complaint states.

“How the hell did you get the upgrade?” Holmberg demanded of her, says the complaint.

“I’m [a] gold point member,” Holmberg’s wife replied. “Don’t speak to me like that.”

During the second interaction, Holmberg walked up to his wife and handed her his phone, told her to read what was on the screen, “then gave [her] the finger,” the complaints says.

When Holmberg went back for a third confrontation, he “pushed in front of” his wife’s seatmate “and attempted to swing his arm towards [the] victim,” according to the complaint. The seatmate “leaned forward to block the attempted strike, but [Holmberg] still appeared to strike the top of victim’s head with his hand,” the complaint goes on, noting that Holmberg’s wife later said he’d roughed her up in the past, and that one confrontation had left her with a broken finger.

If convicted at trial, Roger Allan Holmberg Sr. faces up to a year in prison. (AP)
If convicted at trial, Roger Allan Holmberg Sr. faces up to a year in prison. (AP)

An off-duty police officer sitting one row in front of Holmberg’s wife noticed “a disturbance” between her and Holmberg, and heard Holmberg’s wife tell him, “You cannot be doing that,” according to the complaint.

The officer soon came to realize that Holmberg had struck his wife in the head, after which he headed for the first class lavatory, the complaint states. It says that when Holmberg emerged from the bathroom, the cop told Holmberg that “if there were any further incidents, we would put him in handcuffs." Holmberg “ stopped his disruptions at this point,” says the complaint.

An FBI special agent, along with an Anchorage Airport Police officer, met the plane when it landed at 6:41 p.m., according to the complaint.

Holmberg’s wife, who was not noticeably bruised or bleeding, told authorities that her husband “had a history of abusing her,” and recounted the story about Holmberg having broken her finger last September, the complaint states. She said that Holmberg “struck her in the head with the back of his knuckles” aboard the plane, adding that Holmberg “knew [she] had epilepsy and that contact to [her] head could cause a seizure,” the complaint continues.

The complaint says Holmberg’s wife, whose finger remained bandaged, “had thought about reporting the abuse in the past but never did. However, after this incident she wanted to report it.”

Under questioning by airport police and the FBI, Holmberg said he and his wife had been seeing a marriage counselor in an attempt to mend rifts in their relationship. But, according to the complaint, Holmberg blamed the problems entirely on her.

“[Holmberg] stated [his wife] was disrespectful to him often and had anger issues,” the complaint states. “[She] had grabbed [Holmberg’s] leg in the past while [he] was driving a vehicle and broke her finger. [Holmberg] also stated [his wife] had grabbed his genitals in the past with such force that [he] was in pain.”

Holmberg claimed he was “upset” about his wife’s upgrade to first class “because he wanted his wife to travel with him and sit next to him,” according to the complaint. It says Holmberg downplayed the severity of the strike, telling investigators that he simply “tapped his wife on the head in passing to get her attention.”

“Although he was upset, he stated he was not a violent person and did not intend to hurt his wife,” the complaint says.

Holmberg was arrested on one count of simple assault within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States and transported to the Anchorage Correctional Center to await his arraignment, set for Monday at 10:30 a.m. local time.

If convicted at trial, Holmberg faces up to a year in prison. An Alaska Airlines spokesperson confirmed that Holmberg “has been banned from our flights.”