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Aviation Police Tell Their Side Of United Story In Newly Released Reports

By Tanveer Ali | April 24, 2017 4:58pm | Updated on April 24, 2017 5:33pm
 A still from a Twitter video shows a bloodied Dr. David Dao, who was forced off a United Airlines flight earlier this month by City of Chicago Aviation Department security workers.
A still from a Twitter video shows a bloodied Dr. David Dao, who was forced off a United Airlines flight earlier this month by City of Chicago Aviation Department security workers.
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CHICAGO — Chicago Aviation Department officers told supervisors they used "minimal but necessary" force when they pulled a passenger from his seat and dragged him off an overbooked United Airlines flight earlier this month.

On Monday afternoon, the Aviation Department released a trove of documents and videos related to the notorious April 9 incident in accordance with a Freedom of Information Act request.

Among the documents was the official Aviation Department report of the incident that includes statements from three responding officers and their supervisor. The documents also, for the first time, identify the officers involved. All three have been put on leave since the incident, which left the passenger, Dr. David Dao, with a broken nose, knocked-out teeth and a concussion.

The documents also show that James Long, the officer who pulled Dao from his seat, had just returned from a five-day suspension on April 1 related to job performance and violating city policy. 

In addition, the documents show the city's deputy aviation commissioner, Jeffery Redding, sent out a departmentwide memo eight days after the incident, asking workers to review the city's use-of-force policy and for supervisors to review the policy during roll call meetings for three weeks.

"As indicated in the Directive, 'the safety of innocent persons and officers is of paramount importance,'" the memo reads.


Dao refused to get off the plane when he was randomly selected to be bumped to make room for United-contracted employees who needed to get to Louisville.

Dao explained that he had patients to see in Louisville in the morning, witnesses said.

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

In the videos, police drag Dao, who appears to have blood coming from his mouth and whose glasses are askew, from his seat and down the aisle by his arms as other passengers watch in horror.

One of the officers involved in the incident, Maurico Rodriguez Jr., wrote in his statement that responding officers "made contact with the subject and tried to persuade Mr. Dao to leave in a calm manner."

Rodriguez states that Dao responded: "I'm not leaving this flight that I paid money for. I don't care if I get arrested."

Two other officers later got on the plane, Steven Smith and James Long. According to Rodriguez's report, Dao told them repeatedly: "I'm not getting off."

Long grabbed Dao and pulled him toward the aisle. Dao "started swinging his arms up and down with a closed fist," according to Long's statement. Long said he was able to grab Dao and pull him from the window seat to the aisle, where he started fighting.

"The subject was able to knock Officer Long's right hand off the subject's arm causing Officer Long to lose control of Mr. Dao," according to Rodriguez's statement. "Consequentially, (sic) the subject fell and hit his mouth on the armrest across from him which caused an injury to his mouth."

"Long assisted the subject by using minimal but necessary force to remove the subject," Rodriguez said in a separate statement.

After the incident, Dao was taken to Lutheran General Hospital.

United CEO Oscar Munoz later apologized for the "truly horrific" incident, and the Aviation Department suspended Rodriguez, Long and Smith.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the suspension of the three officers were handled well by Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans.