Here Are the Chicago Officers Suspended After Dragging David Dao Off United Flight

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The four aviation security officers involved in the United passenger incident have been named.

City officials have released the names of four Chicago Department of Aviation security officers who have been suspended after dragging United Airlines passenger David Dao off of a flight to Chicago.

According to the accident/incident report obtained by Heavy through a Freedom of Information Act request, the officers involved were Officer James Long, Officer Maurico Rodriguez Jr., Officer Steven Smith and Sergeant John Moore. The four officers have been suspended pending an investigation into their use of force during the April 9 incident at O’Hare International Airport.

“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. “That officer has been placed on leave effective today pending a thorough review of the situation.”

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.

Long was hired in 2015 and had recently returned from a five-day suspension on April 1. He was placed on leave because for insubordination after supervisors said he allowed a vehicle to get through an airport entrance at O’Hare when he was supposed to be blocking it. His supervisors said he violated a direct order by doing so.

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.

Video showing Dao being taken off the flight by the officers went viral and eventually led to an apology from United. The airline said it will no longer use police officers to forcefully remove passengers who refuse to give up their seats in an overbooking situation.

According to the airline, Dao and his wife were randomly selected by a computer to give up their seats when the airline needed to put four crew members onto the flight to Louisville. Dao refused to leave the plane, and crew members called police.

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, bu 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:

Dao, a doctor, is planning to sue the airline and the city of Chicago, which oversees the Department of Aviation security officers. Dao’s attorney said at a press conference that the 69-year-old man was hospitalized with a concussion and a broken nose that will require reconstructive surgery. He also lost two front teeth, attorney Thomas Demetrio said.

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. Video of part of that exchange was also caught on video:

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.”

Long said in his statement that Dao told him he wasn’t leaving and “Fold his arms tightly.” Long said when he tried to grab Dao to remove him from the seat, he said Dao “started swinging his arms up and down with a closed fist,” according to the statement:

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.

In his statement, Rodriguez said the officers removed Dao “by using minimal, but necessary force.”

Long said in his statement that Dao was “limp” after he was dragged out of the plane and was laid on the floor. Long said Dao later got up and ran back onto the aircraft.

According to a statement from a United employee, Dao “somehow rushed back onto the aircraft all the way to the aft galley. He held on to the direct view panel arm. He was spitting blood, saying ‘I’m going home. Just kill me.'”

The Chicago Police Department also released its report on the incident. Officers responded to the airport, but were not directly involved in the incident.

R.O. / Bts. 7212 and 7219 received an OCC call of a disturbance onboard a United Airlines flight at Gate C3. Upon arrival, R.O. and Bt. 7219 observed the victim laying on the jet bridge floor, in front of the open door of U.A. Flight # 3411 (ORD –> Louisville, KY). RO also observed Dept. of Aviation officers Long, Rodriguez and Smith on the jet bridge. R.O. spoke with Lead Flight Attendant [REDACTED] who explained, in summary, United Airlines (U.A.) supervisor [REDACTED] (ORD Badge #529062) requested the victim and his wife ([REDACTED]) deplane due to Flight #3411 being overbooked. This victim refused to deplane. [REDACTED] called Police and D.O.A. P.O. Rodriguez (Bt. 3003) arrived first on scene. Rodriguez called for backup and two additional D.O.A. officers arrived on scene: Long (Bt. 3022) and Smith (Bt. 3012) [REDACTED] explained she observed D.O.A. plainclothes officer Long grab the victim under his arms and the remaining (2) D.O.A. officers carry him out.

According to a witness (passenger in seat 16B) [REDACTED] the victim was observed striking his face against an arm rest as D.O.A. officers attempted to escort the victim from the flight. D.O.A. P.O. Rodriguez stated, in summary, he asked passenger Dao to rise from his seat, but subject refused. Rodriguez called for backup and P.O. Long arrived on scene. P.O. Long stated he asked Dao to rise from his seat multiple times, but the subject refused to comply. Long further stated Dao folded his arms across his body and refused to move from his seat. Long stated he wrapped his arms around Dao as the subject continued to resist and the victim struck his lip during the struggle. Long said he dragged the victim from the plane and out onto the jet bridge as D.O.A. P.O.s Rodriguez and Smith assisted him.

Victim stated he and his wife listened to an announcement requesting volunteers to surrender their airline seats, aboard Flight #3411, for reimbursement of $800 per person. The victim and his wife, both doctors, initially expressed interest but declined after learning they were not guaranteed a flight later this evening. Victim stated he had to see patients tomorrow and could not accept a next day flight. Victim stated he had to see patients tomorrow and could not accept a next day flight. Victim and his wife were then told the computer had selected them as candidates to surrender their seats. Victim stated all he remembers was “a tall, black guy, lift me up and throw me to the floor.” R.O. spoke with E.R. Dr. Marinelli who related the victim was in stable condition and would be admitted overnight.

You can read the full report 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.

1 Comment

1 Comment


This is a systemic problem across the country that needs to be addressed. This is a clear example of letting departments work in an environment of un-bridled justice.
I was a highly qualified, trained, and government certified aircraft mechanic with an emphasis in complex electronics and avionics that has had my career end at the hands of Airport Security. A decorated veteran with continuous employment having proudly served the millions of passengers that traveled in some of our finest commercial airports. Since the unfortunate events of Sep 11th I have witness the gradual separation of the individual airport security departments and airline employee communities alike. After reading Aviation Security Advisory Committee recommendations and seeing more incidents such as this, I have chosen to become more involved with this subject. With each airport having its own set of rules to abide by and different structures, some airport rules are far more ambiguous than other airports especially when administering the use of force. I’m sure if you compare some of the airports across the country you will find a set of ambiguous rules that carry a certain level of hidden bias that will have employees by nature rely on their self-interest to guide their behaviors, eroding any confidence in airport security oversight. This in itself negates the theme of fundamental fairness and interactions between the Airport Security Departments and Airline communities at any given airport. These departments work strictly under the “Politics of Fear”.
The general consensus among co-workers is that airport operations personnel are not your closest support vehicle. On any given day you would stand about a 65% chance of seeing someone pulled over on the airfield for something minor. I have also had alleged speeding infractions while employed. These are often exaggerated or fabricated without merit or proof. There is no radar or speed measuring device involved rather just a visual estimate which stays as a permanent record weather founded or not. If you go to any Airline breakroom for cleaners, ramp agents, mechanics, and operation specialist and ask, they will tell you the name and what shift your more overzealous airport operations/security agent is currently assigned to. The sense of community and awareness on the ramp is closer than you may realize. The constant animosity that is created among airport employee paints an overall clear picture of the typical culture amongst most airport security departments.
It is a conceptually very straight forward notion that if there is a certainty of being directly incapacitated from gainful employment or that one career where your calling is serving the traveling public, a solid form of progressive discipline and non-ambiguous rule set would stop employees from making mistakes and foster more positive involvement with passengers. Yet ambiguity in rule sets cloud an effective application and use of force. This is one step of many where an addition of compounding variables is added to the rules enforcing and supporting ambiguity. In most cases past situations or interactions with the public are never recognized as a trigger for change in a course of action due to the ambiguity of airport rules. This is why Mr. Long realized what he had done and wrote a report. How do you lose balance in a seated position?
Investigations such as this need to be performed by an independent panel. Employees are subjected to the same airport safety and security departments that hold an implicit bias that will fabricated or exaggerated an incident and who are under pressure while operating on a recency bias with all the attention derived from media reports on airport security. Most events or incidents by employees or passengers are obviously inconsistent with the view of self-concept being perceived as a direct threat to airport security or considered overt behavior.
Aviation security departments may be good at protecting the physical security of airports, But who protects Airlines, Airline Employees, Passengers from them?

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