In reports released on Monday by the City of Chicago Department of Aviation, the four aviation officers who manhandled and dragged former United Airline passenger Dr. David Dao off United Express Flight 311 from Chicago to Louisville blamed the passenger for the injuries he suffered while being forcibly removed from his seat and dragged off the plane. The officers claimed that the blood dripping down Dao’s face, as seen in footage uploaded online, was due to injuries he sustained while “fighting” the officers.
Dao, 69, however, said through his legal representatives that he plans to sue United Airlines over the injuries he suffered to his face.
The aviation police reports were released on Monday, April 24, 2017, in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by the Los Angeles Times and other media organizations. The reports reveal the names of the four officers involved in the incident for the first time.
The officers were identified as Mauricio Rodriguez Jr., Steven Smith, James Long, and John Moore.
Footage showing Dao being forcibly removed from his seat on the United Airlines flight sparked a furious backlash on social media. Many viewers threatened to boycott United Airlines, while others clamored for the resignation of the airline CEO Oscar Munoz after he blamed the passenger for refusing to comply with instructions to leave the flight.
Details of the reports by the four officers appeared to contradict footage taken by other passengers on board the flight viewed by millions on multiple social media platforms, the Los Angeles Times noted.
The incident started when the airline asked passengers to volunteer to give up their seats for four crew members who needed to be in Louisville, Kentucky. When no passenger volunteered to leave the flight, the airline resorted to its policy of making passengers give up their seats involuntarily.
Dao and his wife were among passengers required to give up their seats. But Dao refused, saying he was a doctor and that he needed to be in Louisville to see his patients.
Officers Mauricio Rodriguez, Steven Smith, and James Long were called to persuade Dao to give up his seat. The fourth officer, John Moore, appeared to have arrived later.
Dao refused to leave the flight when the officers tried to persuade him.
“I’m not leaving this flight that I paid money for. I don’t care if I get arrested.”
The reports claim that Dao was verbally abusive toward the officers and that he also resisted being removed from the flight. Long then tried to forcibly remove him.
According to the reports, as Long tried to lift Dao off his seat by placing his hands under his armpits, the passenger “started flailing and fighting.” His fists swung threateningly as he flailed his arms, according to Long’s report.
“The subject started swinging his arms up and down with a closed fist,” Long wrote in his report. “[Long] was able to grab the subject and pull him away from the window seat towards the aisle. But suddenly the subject started flailing and fighting.”
His flailing arms hit Long’s arms. The action caused the officer to lose his grip on Dao’s body, and Dao lost balance and hit his face against the seat armrest.
“This caused the subject to fall, hit, and injured his mouth on the armrest on the other side of the aisle.”
In other words, Dao was to blame for his injuries because he forced the officer who was trying to lift him up to drop him.
Dao sustained multiple injuries to his face as a result of the accident. Video uploaded online showed blood dripping from his face. His attorney said he suffered a concussion, lost two front teeth, and broke his nose.
After he was removed from the seat, Doa “was brought out to the jet bridge area. He was limp so he was laid on the floor,” the report continued
According to the report, Dao boarded the plane again after he was removed.
“I’m not getting off the plane. Just kill me. I want to go home,” he said as he ran on board, according to the report.
But Dao’s lawyer, Thomas Demetrio, said Dao does not remember getting back on the plane after he was removed.
“He has absolutely zero, nada memory of going back onto that plane. Not a lick of it.”
One of the four officers, Steven Smith, wrote in the introduction to his statement that his statement was “not being given voluntarily but under duress.”
“I am only giving this statement at this time because I know that I could lose my job if I refuse the direct order being given to me.”
His colleague, Rodriguez, made a similar statement at the beginning of his report. Rodriguez also said that Long helped the passenger to avoid injury by “using minimal but necessary force to remove” him.
The four officers were placed on administrative leave. According to an official statement, Long was placed on administrative leave for “violation of city police rule” and for “conduct involving job performance or substandard work performance.”
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