David Dao: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

david dao

Getty Demonstrators protest United Airlines at O'Hare International Airport on April 11, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.

The man who was forcibly dragged off of a United Airlines flight has been identified as David Dao, a doctor, professional poker player and father of five originally from Vietnam who was once convicted of trading drugs for sex as part of a downfall that derailed his medical career.

The Louisville Courier-Journal and USA Today confirmed his identity and that he lives in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

Dao, 69, was on his way from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to Louisville when the incident took place. It was captured on video by nearby passengers and led to outrage and United eventually apologizing for how it all played out.

One of Dao’s attorneys, Tom Demetrio, provided an update on his client’s condition at a press conference April 13. He did so alongside one of Dao’s five children, Crystal. He said that Dao suffered a “significant” concussion, a “serious” broken nose and the loss of his two front teeth as a result of the incident.

Demetrio added that Dao was discharged from a Chicago hospital April 12 and he will have to undergo reconstructive surgery in order to repair it. Watch the press conference in the video below:

Initially, United insinuated that flight 3411 was “overbooked.” However, United spokesman Jonathan Guerin told USA Today that was not the case. He said that all of the 70 seats on the plane were filled, but that didn’t make it over capacity.

Instead, a regional affiliate that was operating the flight — Republic Airlines — opted to move four of its passengers because four crew members were considered “must-ride passengers.”

Dao is a doctor who studied at a medical school in Saigon, Vietnam. He’s a father of five and a grandfather. Four of his five kids are doctors and his wife, Teresa, is a pediatrician.

On April 13, United issued a new statement expressing their concern for Dao and how the incident played out. The company promised to take “immediate action” to fix what’s “broken.”

We continue to express our sincerest apology to Dr. Dao. We cannot stress enough that we remain steadfast in our commitment to make this right.
This horrible situation has provided a harsh learning experience from which we will take immediate, concrete action. We have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. First, we are committing that United will not ask law enforcement officers to remove passengers from our flights unless it is a matter of safety and security. Second, we’ve started a thorough review of policies that govern crew movement, incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. Third, we will fully review and improve our training programs to ensure our employees are prepared and empowered to put our customers first. Our values – not just systems – will guide everything we do. We’ll communicate the results of our review and the actions we will take by April 30. United CEO Oscar Munoz and the company called Dr. Dao on numerous occasions to express our heartfelt and deepest apologies.

On April 27, Dao and his attorneys announced they have reached a settlement for an undisclosed amount with United.

See below for the full statement released by the law firm:


Dao had his medical license suspended for more than 10 years for illegally prescribing patients with painkillers. He was sentenced to probation, avoiding a two-year prison sentence he could have served.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Dao Suffered a Concussion, Lost Teeth & a Broken Nose After He Was Removed From the Plane

The airline said that it offered “up to $1,000 in compensation” if someone would accept. Nobody ended up coming forward, so United staff said it would select four passengers randomly to exit the plane. Dao was one of the four, and officials approached him “more than one time” to come off of the plane, to which he refused and “became more disruptive and belligerent,” United said in an internal email to employees.

The airline said its agents “were left with no choice” except to call Chicago Aviation Police to get Dao off of the flight. When they arrived, security officers were unable to get Dao to cooperate with their instructions and physically removed him through the aisle.

In the scuffle, Dao’s face struck an arm rest and his mouth became bloodied. A short time after officials got him off the plane, he returned to the cabin and ran to the back, holding onto an object and pled to let him go home.

Officials eventually subdued Dao and took him off the flight. The flight was delayed about three hours because of the incident.

2. Dao Was Convicted of Prescribing a Patient With Painkillers In Exchange for Sex in Louisville

In 2003, Dao was charged with 98 counts of illegally prescribing and trafficking prescription painkillers such as hydrocodone, Oxycontin and Percocet. You can read the criminal complaint above, along with other documents related to the case and Dao’s medical license.

He was a co-defendant in the case along with Brian D. Case, who was indicted on 33 felony drug charges.

Dao was caught on surveillance video meeting patients and supplying them with painkillers, mainly hydrocodone.

According to a criminal complaint on at least one occasion, Dao received $174 in exchange for the pills in an unlabeled bottle. From 2001-2003, Dao “unlawfully prescribed controlled substances” to patients, court documents said.

The criminal complaint in the case went onto say that Dao would solicit homosexual relations with a male patient in exchange for a prescription for hydrocodone. The meetings occurred at motels and it was found that Dao had written out personal checks to the patient on more than one occasion.

The patient was arrested at a Walgreens Pharmacy and brought in for an interview, where he confessed about his and Dao’s relationship. The man was brought into police custody because he was calling the pharmacy to order prescriptions and saying that he was in fact Dao, picking up prescriptions under numerous aliases.

Dao was eventually arrested by police at a hotel room in Jefferson County on July 25, 2003. The room was under surveillance by the Louisville Police Department and Dao was seen with the male patient without a shirt on and with his pants undone. The patient gave Dao money for a bottle of pills and police stormed the room to arrest him upon the exchange.

Dao was officially charged with unlawful prescribing, trafficking in a controlled substance and complicity in obtaining drugs by fraud and deceit and pled not guilty to the charges.

Some of those charges ended up being dismissed, but Dao was eventually convicted on six counts. He was found guilty of complicity in obtaining a controlled substance (hydrocodone) by fraud and sentenced to two years, eight months in prison, a sentence that was suspended, and was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

In addition to those convictions, Dao was indicted in Nelson County with eight felony counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud and deceit and eight more of complicity to obtain controlled substances by fraud and deceit. Those charges were all dismissed in April 2005.

3. Before His Drug Convictions, Dao, Who Fled Vietnam to Come to America, Treated Patients at a Hospital & Owned His Own Practice

An employee from the hospital later clarified in a statement to Heavy that Dao “had privileges to treat his own patients at the hospital from July 1986 to October 2003.” While doing so, he opened up a medical practice alongside his wife.

Before that, though, he studied at a medical school in Vietnam before he was forced to flee the country. He was in the Vietnamese military in 1974, but never saw action in the Vietnam War.

Dao eventually fled the country in 1975 when Saigon fell, traveling on a boat. Demetrio said in a press conference that being dragged down the aisle of the United flight “was more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced in leaving Vietnam.”

He finished his medical training in California before moving to Indiana in 1980. There, he worked at a prison in Michigan City but quit after one year when an inmate reportedly tried to strangle him with his own stethoscope.

Dao’s medical license was suspended on October 16, 2003 by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure because of his transgressions. He applied to have it completely reinstated in 2007, but the board shot it down.

It cited Dao’s practice as constituting “a danger to the health, welfare and safety of his patients or the general public.” The ruling added that it has “probable cause to believe that the physician has committed certain violations in the recent past that present probable cause to believe that (Dao) will commit similar violations in the near future.”

In order for it to get reinstated, Dao had to undergo extensive educational classes and evaluations by psychologists. Once he completed the required work, Dao applied for it to be reinstated again, and he was granted was partial renewal. On March 2, 2016, board chair C. William Briscoe agreed to allow Dao to resume his practice of medicine in Kentucky.

4. One Patient Ended Up Working For Dao At His Practice & Quit Because of Sexual Advances Made By Him, He Said In a Criminal Complaint

A United Airlines flight. (Getty)

The main informant in the case — who wasn’t identified in the complaint — first met Dao in September 2000 as a patient. He had been having chest pains and was referred to Dao by another doctor.

Three months after the two met, Dao asked the male patient to be an office manager at his medical practice in Kentucky. He worked there for about six weeks, but eventually resigned because of sexual advances and harassment from Dao, a complaint said.

But instead of saying the actual reason he had quit, the patient instead wrote in his resignation letter that he quite for “personal reasons.”

But the relationship between Dao and the patient didn’t end there.

Once the former office manager left the business, the criminal complaint said Dao “intensely pursued him, calling many times a day and driving to (where he lived) to find him.”

Eventually, the two met each other once again for a period of six months. During that span, Dao wrote him personal checks to the former employee that totaled around $4,500 in addition to prescribing hydrocodone.

Dao’s wife eventually found out about the checks and assumed he was having an affair. As Dao’s wife continued her private investigation, the two stopped meeting for a brief amount of time. Soon enough, Dao paid off the former employee to keep quiet to his wife.

The patient said in an interview with authorities that he believed that Dao intended on getting him addicted to the painkillers so that he would keep coming back to meet with him.

5. Dao Has Made More Than $234,000 Playing in World Series of Poker Tournaments & Pursued a Career as a Chef

In addition to being a doctor, Dao has also played in several professional poker tournaments affiliated with the World Series of Poker. He joined the poker circuit in July 2006 while his medical license was suspended.

In the past decade, Dao has career earnings of $234,664, according to the World Series of Poker’s website. He most recently played in the Horeshoe Tunica WSOP Circuit event in Mississippi on January 23, finishing 11th to win $1,191. His biggest win came in 2009 at the Harrah’s Tunica Circuit Championship event in Mississippi, where he won $117,744 by finishing in second place.

According to his biography on PokerNews.net, Dao played poker “semi-seriously for about four years.”

In addition to his time at the poker table, Dao had an interest in being a chef and even attended a culinary school.

The publication below from Sullivan University in Kentucky stated that Dao had taken a “sabbatical from his busy medical practice” in 2004 to take up cooking.

It read that Dao had found a passion about food and preventing disease “instead of always treating the symptoms.”

Read more about David Dao and the United Airlines incident in Spanish at AhoraMismo.com: