Cops fired after dragging doctor off United Airlines flight

Using violence to eject an innocent doctor from an airplane only weakens the public’s waning trust of law enforcement.


Recorded on several cellphone videos assaulting a 69-year-old doctor for refusing to give up his seat on an overbooked flight and dragging him off the airplane, two security officers have recently been fired while a third officer resigned. According to a report from Chicago’s Office of the Inspector General, three of the officers involved violently escalated the incident while a Department of Aviation security sergeant filed false statements and omitted several key facts from the arrest reports.

On April 9, Dr. David Dao sat aboard United Express Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville when a flight attendant informed him that the flight was overbooked and his seat had randomly been selected for another United employee. Dao refused to give up his seat while pointing out that he is a doctor who needed to return home to see his patients.

According to the cellphone videos recorded by his fellow passengers, Dao remained in his seat as three aviation security officers physically assaulted him. Dao shrieked in agony while receiving a concussion and being slammed to the floor.

Barely appearing conscious, Dao suffered a broken nose and two teeth knocked out as the overzealous officers dragged him down the aisle. Shortly after the officers removed the nonviolent doctor from the plane, Dao returned in a state of panic with blood pouring across his face.

In the videos, Dao hysterically kept repeating “I have to go home” and “Just kill me.”

Two days later, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz issued a statement: “The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.”

Later that month, Dao reached an undisclosed settlement with United Airlines. On Tuesday, Chicago’s Inspector General Joseph Ferguson released a report accusing three officers of using “excessive force” and “improperly escalated the incident,” while their sergeant “made misleading statements and deliberately removed material facts from their reports.”

Refusing to identify the four officers involved, Ferguson announced that two officers had been fired while the other two received short-term suspensions. One of the unnamed officers who received a five-day suspension subsequently resigned.

Similar to hotels and rental car companies, airlines have become notorious for overbooking reservations in order to cut costs while callously sacrificing customer satisfaction. Dao was not removed for causing a nuisance or bothering other passengers. His seat was chosen at random to be handed over to an incompetent United employee with a scheduling conflict.

Using violence to eject an innocent doctor from an airplane only weakens the public’s waning trust of law enforcement. None of the officers currently face criminal charges for assaulting Dao.


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