The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

I'm Sorry Our Officers Dragged Doctor Off United Plane, Aviation Boss Says

By Heather Cherone | April 13, 2017 3:00pm | Updated on April 13, 2017 3:44pm
 City Aviation Commission Ginger Evans talks to reporters.
City Aviation Commission Ginger Evans talks to reporters.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

CITY HALL — Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans apologized Thursday for allowing a Louisville doctor to be dragged off a United Airlines flight Sunday and seriously injured.

Dr. David Dao's nose was broken, two of his front teeth were lost, and he suffered a concussion during the incident, his attorney said Thursday morning.

“I want to express our extreme regret for the actions of our officers," Evans said at an emergency hearing of the City Council Aviation Committee.

Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd) called the incident that was captured by several other passengers on widely seen videos a "nightmare" that was "totally avoidable."


Zalewski said there were no excuses for the incident that began when several Aviation security officers gathered around Dao's seat before one officer lunged at him, dragging him forcefully out of his seat as the doctor wailed.

"We have to make sure this never happens again," Zalewski said.

Three Aviation security officers have been suspended with pay in connection with their role in this incident.

None of the officers, who are represented by the Service Employees International Union, have been identified by city officials.

Evans said a complete investigation of the incident was underway, and the results would be released publicly when the investigation is complete.

In response to heated and repeated questioning by 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke, Evans acknowledged that Aviation security officers had been ordered to no longer wear uniforms emblazoned with the word "police."

Evans said the Aviation security officers were told in January to identify themselves as "security."

@United overbook #flight3411 and decided to force random passengers off the plane. Here's how they did it: pic.twitter.com/QfefM8X2cW

— Jayse D. Anspach (@JayseDavid) April 10, 2017

The investigation will probe why the officers captured on video were wearing black-and-white jackets with the word "police" on them, Evans said.

Burke and 37th Ward Ald. Emma Mitts suggested that the city would end up paying the price for the incident, with Mitts speaking directly to Evans.

"You should apologize to the whole city of Chicago and the taxpayers," Mitts said.

RELATED: United Passengers Who Saw Bloodied Man Dragged Off Jet to Get Refunds

City employees should never have intervened in the incident, Burke said.

"To be quite frank, Chicago employees should not be doing the dirty work for the 'friendly skies' airline," Burke said, referring to United's commercial slogan.

Jeff Redding, deputy commissioner for security for the Aviation Department, said the department's protocol is for security officers not to board a plane if they deem the call for help a "customer service incident" and there is no "immediate threat."

Citing the ongoing investigation, Redding declined to answer whether that protocol was followed in the incident involving Dao.

However, 38th Ward Ald. Nicholas Sposato — a former firefighter — and 15th Ward Ald. Ray Lopez — a former Midway Airport skycap — said Dao bears some of the blame for the incident.

"When you are at the airport, you cooperate," Sposato said, referring to a video that captured Dao telling officers that he would not leave the plane before they removed him.

In response to questioning from Ald. Danny Solis (25th), Margaret Houlihan Smith, United's managing director for corporate and government affairs, said Dao, who came to America from Vietnam, was not targeted because of his ethnicity.

In response to the the incident, Aviation security officers, who are not part of the Chicago Police Department, will be taught how to de-escalate altercations verbally and given sensitivity training, Evans said.

United Airlines flight 3411, an Embraer jet flown through the airline's United Express arm, was scheduled to depart from O'Hare International Airport at 5:40 p.m. Sunday headed to Lousiville International Airport when the company asked four passengers to voluntarily leave the plane so that four nonworking crew members could travel to Louisville, according to several travelers who posted about the incident online.

Those four passengers were picked based on their frequent flyer status, the price they paid for their ticket and the time they checked in, said John Slater, the vice president of United's operations at O'Hare.

Passengers were offered a hotel stay and compensation ranging from $400 to $800, in accordance with U.S. Transportation Department rules requiring airlines to compensate passengers who miss flights due to the controversial practice of overbooking.

Houlihan Smith apologized again for the incident, which she said was "unacceptable" and "disturbing."

"This is not who we are as a company," Houlihan Smith said. "We are deeply sorry."

The incident is under review, and the airline will review its protocols as part of a thorough investigation, Slater said.