CITY HALL — Two Chicago aviation security officers who helped drag a Louisville doctor off a United Airlines flight in April, seriously injuring him and drawing scorn worldwide, have been fired, Inspector General Joseph Ferguson revealed Tuesday.
The officer who "improperly escalated the incident" was fired, as was a sergeant who deliberately removed "material facts from an employee report" about the altercation, which was captured on video and created a firestorm on social media, Ferguson said in his quarterly report released Tuesday.
The officer used "excessive force" while removing Dr. David Dao from the plane, Ferguson's report concluded.
Both officers have appealed their terminations.
Attorney Thomas Demetrio, who represented Dao, said the doctor was "neither vindictive nor happy about Mr. Ferguson’s findings."
Demetrio said officers from all departments should learn a lesson from the incident and its fallout.
"Do not state something that is clearly contrary to video viewed by the world," Demetrio said. "But for the video, the filed report stating that only 'minimal' force was used would have been unnoticed. Simply put, don’t make stuff up."
Ferguson recommended that two other Aviation security officers be suspended for five days in connection with the incident, for which Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans has apologized. One of the officers made misleading statements in two reports and the third officer made material omissions in a report about the incident, the report stated.
One officer appealed his suspension, and it was reduced to two days, according to the report. The other officer also appealed his suspension, but resigned before it was resolved.
None of the officers who were disciplined in connection with the incident were identified in the report, in keeping with the rules governing the inspector general's office.
However, officers told supervisors they used "minimal but necessary" force, according to the official Aviation Department report of the incident that includes statements from three responding officers and their supervising sergeant.
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, according to the report.
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, according to the report.
According to the city's employee database, Long no longer is employed by the Aviation Department.
Aviation security officer 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."
In a separate statement, Rodriguez said Long used "minimal but necessary force to remove" Dao.
Rodriguez still is employed as an Aviation security officer, as is Steven Smith, who also boarded the plane to ask Dao to leave his seat, according to the city's database.
The incident began when several Aviation security officers gathered around Dao's seat, demanding that he leave the aircraft because United Airlines officials needed to give his seat to crew members to allow them to travel to Louisville.
One officer lunged at Dao and dragged him from his seat as the doctor wailed. His nose was broken, two of his front teeth were knocked out, and he suffered a concussion, Dao's attorney said.
After the fracas, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the conduct of the security officers "totally, all-around unacceptable."
Ferguson's investigation "identified significant confusion," about "the roles and expectations" of Aviation security officers, according to the report.
Ferguson faulted Evans and the city 's Aviation Department for failing "to implement practical policies and procedures."
In July, Evans said Aviation security officers would be stripped of the right to call themselves police in an attempt to reduce the confusion identified by Ferguson.
However, that move was blasted by Aviation security officers and several aldermen who said it jeopardizes the safety of passengers at O'Hare and Midway airports.
The head of the Aviation security force was fired several weeks after the incident.