One of three Chicago Department of Aviation police officers involved in dragging a male passenger off a United Airlines flight on April 9 at O'Hare Airport was suspended on April 10 (video below).
Viral videos of the incident show an officer pulling the passenger out of his seat and then dragging him down the middle of the aisle while several passengers watch in shock and voice their disapproval. Two officers follow the first one down the aisle.
Aviation Department spokeswoman Karen Pride announced the suspension, notes the Chicago Sun-Times:
The incident on United flight 3411 was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure and the actions of the aviation security officer are obviously not condoned. That officer has been placed on leave effective today pending a thorough review of the situation.
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Pride did not comment on whether the leave was paid or unpaid, or on why the other officers were not suspended.
The airline had overbooked a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, and wanted to put four of its employees on the flight.
Audra D. Bridges posted a video of the incident on her Facebook page on April 9 with a description:
United airlines overbooked the flight. They randomly selected people to kick off so their standby crew could have a seat. This man is a doctor and has to be at the hospital in the morning. He did not want to get off.
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A United spokesperson gave a statement to the Courier-Journal via email on April 9:
Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities.
After the videos went viral, United CEO Oscar Munoz said in a statement on April 10 that it was "an upsetting event to all of us here at United," reports the Chicago Tribune.
"I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers," Munoz added. "Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened."
Munoz said that United is trying to reach the passenger to "further address and resolve this situation."
John Banzhaf, a professor at he George Washington University Law School, told LawNewz that the passenger has a strong case if he chooses to file a lawsuit:
In addition to the tort of simply removing a passenger even if the force to do so was reasonable, it might be argued that the force used here was excessive. In other words, even if somehow the law permitted a passenger to be removed by force under these circumstances, it would appear that the force used here was excessive, and that the airline acquiesced in the use of that excessive force.