Chicago Airport Security Officers Punished for Violently Removing David Dao From United Flight

By Sameer Rao Oct 18, 2017

Four Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) security officers who were caught on a viral cell phone video dragging a Vietnamese-American doctor off an overbooked United Airlines flight have been punished for their roles in the violent ordeal.

The City of Chicago Office of the Inspector General (OIG) announced yesterday (October 17) that two of the officers involved in forcibly removing David Dao from United Express Flight 3411 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport have been fired. The Washington Post reports that two others were suspended for five and two days, respectively. The OIG did not name the punished officers or divulge when the punishments were meted out. The office’s statement says that one of the terminated officers "escalated the incident" by using "excessive force" to remove Dao, while the other—holding the rank of "sergeant"—falsified information in an internal post-incident report:

The use of excessive force caused the passenger to hit his face on an armrest, resulting in a concussion, a broken nose and the loss of two teeth. The investigation also uncovered that the employees made misleading statements and deliberately removed material facts from their reports. Acting on OIG’s findings and recommendations, CDA terminated the [aviation security officer] who improperly escalated the incident and the sergeant involved in the deliberate removal of facts from an employee report. CDA suspended the other two [aviation security officers] involved in the incident and its aftermath.

The OIG also stated that the CDA will complete an ongoing "review of its policies and procedures" by the first quarter of 2018. Neither the OIG nor the CDA specified those policies in public statements. 

The Post notes that United Airlines called the officers on April 9 after none of the passengers on the overbooked flight to Louisville would give up their seats to accommodate United staffers. Dao refused to give up his seat, and The Post says he repeatedly told officers, "I have to go home." The following cell phone video shows an officer pulling Dao out of his seat, causing the 69-year-old man’s head to hit the armrest. He then drags him down the center aisle past horrified passengers:

Passengers’ videos inspired criticism against United and generated public conversations about private companies’ ability to employ law enforcement officials. United, who The Post reports privately settled with Dao for an undisclosed sum, did not respond to the firings as of press time. 

The Chicago Police Department, which was not involved in the incident, initially addressed it by saying that Dao "fell." Dao’s attorney Thomas Demetrio tells The Post that the CDA and other law enforcement agencies would not have properly investigated the incident without the cell phone video, which forced accountability.

“There is a lesson to be learned here for police officers at all levels: do not state something that is clearly contrary to video viewed by the world,”  Demetrio says. “The Inspector General’s report should become the poster child for why passengers should always maintain the right to videotape mistreatment of all kinds. Our cell phones are the best deterrent to ensure mistreatment becomes a rarity.”