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Lawmakers Demand Answers After Bloodied Man Dragged Off United Flight

By Heather Cherone | April 11, 2017 2:00pm | Updated on April 11, 2017 2:36pm
 One man was dragged off United flight 3411 Sunday night after the airline made four passengers get off the plane when no one volunteered to leave.
One man was dragged off United flight 3411 Sunday night after the airline made four passengers get off the plane when no one volunteered to leave.
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O'HARE — Politicians vowed Tuesday to get to the bottom of what happened Sunday evening when a man was removed from his seat, bloodied and dragged off a United Airlines flight by an officer.

Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd), chairman of the City Council's aviation committee, said he would hold an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon at City Hall to demand answers from Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans.

The passenger, who identified himself to airport staff as a doctor, refused to get off the plane when he was randomly selected to be bumped to make room for United employees who needed to get to Louisville.

A series of videos — which have gone viral — shows several law enforcement officers gathered around the man's seat before one officer lunges at him, and the passenger lets out a loud wail.

The incident has given O'Hare Airport a "black eye," Zalewski said Tuesday.

"We need answers about what happened, why it happened and what plan there is to make sure that this never happens again," Zalewski said. "Somebody has to be held to account."

The whole incident was "bungled from start to finish," Zalewski said.

Aviation Department officers should never have responded to calls from United Airlines employees to remove a passenger, Zalewski said. Instead, Chicago Police Department officers should have been called.

Even then, there was no need for officers to take such "drastic" and "heavy-handed" action against the man.

One officer, who was not identified, was placed on leave Monday, "pending a thorough review of the situation," city Aviation Department spokeswoman Karen Pride wrote in an emailed statement.

"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 by the Department," Pride said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel declined to answer questions about the incident Tuesday at an unrelated event. After the event, his office released a statement praising Evans for taking swift action and launching a "thorough investigation" to "ensure nothing like this ever happens again."

"Anyone who saw that video had the same reaction: this was completely unacceptable at every level," Emanuel said.

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U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, a member of the House Transportation Committee's Aviation subcommittee, said Congress may need to step in to make sure an incident like this never reoccurs.

The federal Department of Transportation said it would review whether United Airlines followed the rules regarding oversold flights.

U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said they found the incident extremely troubling.

"The use of extreme force featured in the video circulating on social media today is shocking and unacceptable," Schakowsky said.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during his daily news briefing that the incident could've been handled better from "a human to human" standpoint. Spicer said the videos of the incident were "troubling."

After issuing a statement Monday saying employees "followed established procedures" when they removed the man from the plane to Louisville, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz Tuesday afternoon apologized for the incident in a statement and pledged to "fix it."