Dragged United Airlines passenger was 'aggressive', officers say

One of the police officers who forcibly removed a passenger from a United Airlines flight said "minimal but necessary force" was used in the incident after the passenger became "combative", according to a report released by the city. VIDEO: REUTERS
Dr David Dao in a video screengrab being forcibly removed from the United Airlines flight.
Dr David Dao in a video screengrab being forcibly removed from the United Airlines flight.PHOTO: REUTERS

CHICAGO (AFP) - Newly released reports from security officers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport paint an unflattering picture of the man dragged from a United Airlines flight, setting off a worldwide uproar.

The documents, requested by US media outlets which reported on their contents Tuesday, say passenger David Dao was "aggressive," and that one of the three officers attempting to remove him from his seat on United Flight 3411 had lost his grip when Dao flailed his arms, causing the 69-year-old to fall and injure himself.

The reports also for the first time identified the three Chicago Department of Aviation officers on the plane, one of whom wrote that they had used "minimal but necessary force" to remove Dao from the packed flight to Louisville, Kentucky.

United has said it needed to bump passengers to make room for United staffers who were on duty the next day in Louisville.

Video of the April 9 incident captured by fellow passengers went viral on social media. It also caused a public relations calamity for United and airport officials, sparked worldwide outrage, and led to multiple apologies from United as well as an internal probe of its policies and practices.

According to the documents, officers had tried repeatedly to convince Dao to exit the plane. But, he responded, "I'm not leaving this flight that I paid money for. I don't care if I get arrested," Officer Mauricio Rodriguez wrote in his incident report.


Officer James Long grabbed Dao to pull him off his seat, later writing that the man "started swinging his arms up and down with a closed fist."

Dao knocked one of the officer's hands off, making Long lose his grip, "which caused the subject to fall" against an armrest, Long wrote.

In a subsequent statement, Rodriguez said Long had "assisted the subject by using minimal but necessary force to remove the subject."

Dao, a doctor returning home to Kentucky after a vacation, was left bloodied with a broken nose and a concussion. He lost two front teeth and will need reconstructive surgery, according to his lawyers who said they plan to sue.

Dao attorney Thomas Demetrio did not return a call from AFP seeking comment about the newly released accounts of the incident. But he told the Los Angeles Times they were "utter nonsense. Consider the source."

The incident has reverberated throughout the airline industry.

Delta Airlines raised to US$10,000 (S$14,000) the amount it would pay passengers to voluntarily give up seats on overbooked flights.

American Airlines changed policies so that passengers already on a plane could not be removed to make room for others.

United said it would no longer call police to deal with customer service issues.

The airline, which initially lost some US$500 million in stock value but has since recovered, also promised to release the results of its own internal investigation by April 30.


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