The Chicago Department of Aviation security officer who dragged United Airlines passenger David Dao off a plane on April 9 has been identified.
Officer James Long pulled Dao, a 69-year-old doctor from Kentucky, from his seat after Dao refused to leave the plane after being randomly selected to give up his seat for United crew members who needed to fly to Louisville.
Long and three other officers involved in the incident were identified in reports released April 24 by Chicago officials after a Freedom of Information Act request by Heavy. Officers Long, Mauricio Rodriguez and Steven Smith, and Sergeant John Moore, are now facing an investigation into their conduct in removing Dao.
Dao and other passengers on the flight had declined the $800 in vouchers the airline had offered for four people to take a later flight. Dao and his wife said they considered taking the offer, but decided against it because he had patients to see in the morning and there was no guarantee they’d be on another flight on April 9. Dao and his wife were then selected by a computer.
Dao’s attorney said he plans to sue United Airlines and the city of Chicago.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Videos Show Long Ripping Dao Out of His Seat & Then Dragging Him Off the Plane
Cell phone videos recorded by other passengers show Officer James Long and two of his colleagues, officers Mauricio Rodriguez and Steven Smith, talking with David Dao and then removing him from the plane.
You can watch the videos above.
Long, in a baseball hat and jeans, grabs Dao by the arm and yanks him from his seat. Dao can be seen falling face-first into the arm rest across from him.
Rodriguez, in his report of the incident, writes that Dao told Long “I’m not getting off” in “an aggressive manner.”
Police said Long then “attempted to assist the subject off his seat with two hands, but the subject started swinging his arms up and down fast and violently. Ofc. Long was able to grab hold of the subject and pull him from the seat towards the aisle. The subject then started flailing his arms and started to fight with Ofc. Long. Due to this incident, the subject was able to knock Ofc. Long’s right hand off the subject’s arm causing Ofc. Long to lose control of Mr. Dao. Consequentially, the subject fell and hit his mount on the armrest across from him.”
You can read the full report below:
According to the Department of Aviation incident report, Officer Mauricio Rodriguez was the first aviation security officer to respond to the incident. He said in his report that a supervisor for United Airlines told him Dao was “yelling about leaving the airport.”
Rodriguez boarded the plane with the United employee and “tried to persuade Mr. Dao to leave in a calm manner.” Rodriguez said Dao told him, “I’m not leaving this flight that I paid money for. I don’t care if I get arrested.” Rodriguez said he pleaded with Dao for several minutes after that.
Rodriguez wrote that Officer Steven Smith then also entered the plane and helped to try to convince Dao to leave the plane. Officer James Long was the third officer on the plane. It was then that Rodriguez claims Dao started swinging his arms “violently” as Long tried to remove him from his seat. Rodriguez said that after Dao hit his mouth on the arm rest, “Long regained controlled of the subject and he was removed from the aircraft and brought to the jetbridge.”
In his statement, Rodriguez said the officers removed Dao “by using minimal, but necessary force.”
2. Long Says Dao Was ‘Combative’ & Caused Himself to Fall Into the Armrest
Officer James Long gave a statement to supervisors after the incident. According to the statement it was “not given voluntarily, but under duress.” Long wrote in the statement that “I know that I will lose my job if I refuse.”
Long said in his statement that when he got onto the plane, he told Dao to exit the aircraft. Long said Dao refused and said “I’m not leaving this aircraft.” Dao “folded his arms tightly,” Long said.
According to the statement, Long asked the other officers to help him remove Dao from the plane:
When Ofc. Long tried to reach out to hold the subject, the subject started swinging his arms up and down with a closed fist. Ofc. Long was able to grab the subject and pull him away from the windown (sic) seat towards the aisle. But suddenly, the subject started flailing and fighting. Consequently, the subject was able to knocked (sic) the right hand of Ofc. Long off of his arm and shoulder area, which caused the subject to fall, hit, and injured (sic) his mouth on the armrest on the other side of the aisle. At this time, Ofc. Long was able to regain control of the subject and was able to remove the subject from the aircraft with the help of (another officer). The subject was brought out to the jet bridge area. He was limp so the subject was laid on the floor. He began talking about a minute later.
Long said in his statement that EMS was called to help Dao after he said he was a diabetic. Dao was asked by an airline employee if he wanted water, and Long said Dao then got up and ran past the officers and back onto the plane.
Long went into the plane again and Dao told him he’d “have to kill him,” to get him off, according to the report.
In a supplemental report taken on April 10, a day after the incident, Long said Dao was “combative” toward him, including by swinging his hands. Long said he was able to “subdue” Dao, but Dao, “continued to become combative causing (Long) to lose group of the subject. … Long at that point grabbed (Dao’s) hands removing him from the aircraft by dragging him due to the fact that the subject would not stand up.”
You can read the supplemental report below:
Police said Dao later left the plane and was taken to the hospital.
According to Dao’s attorneys, the 69-year-old doctor suffered a concussion, a broken nose and lost two front teeth in the incident.
“There’s other video that does show that he’s calmly in his seat,” his attorney, Thomas Demetrio told the “Today” show on April 24. “His ticket was accepted, scanned, he boarded, he was seat belted and all the video shows him quietly saying, ‘I want to go home. I’m not getting off.’ And interestingly, you can’t do that. After someone is in their seat that’s not the time to say, ‘We’re overbooked or we need to get an employee from point A to point B.’”
Demetrio said, “We’re hoping that Dr. Dao being taken off that plane like a sack of potatoes is going to resonate with people.”
3. He Was Placed on Administrative Leave After the Videos of the Incident Went Viral
Long was placed on administrative leave after videos went viral.
“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,” Aviation Department spokeswoman Karen Pride said in a statement on April 10. “That officer has been placed on leave effective today pending a thorough review of the situation.”
In a statement on April 11, Pride explained that Aviation Security Officers are part of the public safety teams at the city’s airports, along with the Chicago Fire and Police departments and federal law enforcement.
“While they do have limited authority to make an arrest, Sunday’s incident was not within standard operating procedures nor will we tolerate that kind of action,” the second statement said. “That is why we quickly placed the aviation security officer (Long) on leave pending a thorough review of the situation. The action we have taken thus far reflects what we currently know, and as our review continues we will not hesittate to take additional action as appropriate.”
Long was placed on indefinite leave on April 10.
The investigation was still ongoing as of April 24, when documents related to the incident were released.
4. Long Has Been an Aviation Officer Since 2015 & Was Suspended for Disobeying an Order Earlier This Year
Long, a Chicago native, has been a Department of Aviation Security Officer since 2015, according to his personnel file, which was released by the city on April 24.
He was hired on January 20, 2015, and completed his probationary period on June 9, 2015.
You can read his file below:
Long has one other disciplinary incident on his record, which led to a five-day suspension that ended just before the April 9 incident, according to his file. Long was found to have disobeyed a direct order on January 29, 2017, according to a report on the suspension. He was given the suspension for insubordination.
According to the file, Long was given a direct order to block an entrance gate. He allowed a vehicle to pass through the gate, in violation of that order.
He served his suspension from March 27 to March 31 and returned to work on April 1.
Long is paid $46,656 a year.
5. Three Other Officers Are on Leave & the Incident Has Led to Calls for a Review of the Aviation Department’s Security Force
Long was the first Department of Aviation officer to be placed on leave. Two other security officers, Mauricio Rodriguez and Steven Smith, were placed on leave on April 12. Their supervisor, Sergeant John Moore, was then put on administrative leave on April 19. Moore took reports from the officers and responded to the scene, but was not on the plane when Dao was removed.
Like Long, Rodriguez and Smith are relatively new hires by the Department of Aviation. Smith was hired in June 2016. He has no history of disciplinary actions against him. Rodriguez was also hired in June 2016 and had no prior disciplinary issues.
Moore was hired in 1995. He has previously been suspended for tardiness and absenteeism, according to his personnel file.
They will all remain on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
The incident caused Department of Aviation Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Redding to send a memo to security staff with the department’s use of force policy. He said in the memo the officers should, “thoroughly review the policy and procedures.”
According to the policy officers should use force only when “reasonably necessary to defend a human life, effect an arrest or control a person.” It “shall only be that which is necessary to overcome the resistance being offered by an offender and to effect lawful objectives.”
You can read the memo and policy below:
The Chicago Department of Aviation security officers are not armed. There are about 292 employees working for the aviation police force, according to the Chicago Sun Times. Officers had recently been arguing for the ability to carry guns, but officials have said the incident has likely derailed that proposal.
Another proposal put forwawrd by Alderman Ray Lopez would disband the aviation police department and consolidate its officers into the Chicago Police Department, the Sun Times reports.
Chicago police officers earn more money than aviation officers and also receive more training, the newspaper reports.