BuzzFeed News

Reporting To You

Two Officers Who Were Recorded Dragging A Doctor Off A United Flight Have Been Fired

An investigation by the Office of the Inspector General in Chicago found that officers used "excessive force" and "mishandled" the removal of David Dao.

Posted on October 17, 2017, at 4:41 p.m. ET

Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Two security officers who forcibly dragged a doctor off a United flight in April have been fired over the incident, following an investigation by Chicago's inspector general.

The officers used "excessive force" when removing David Dao, 69, from Flight 3411 in Chicago on April 10, the report from Inspector General Joseph Ferguson found.

The investigation established that the four officers involved — three Aviation Security officers from Chicago's Department of Aviation and one Aviation Security sergeant — had "mishandled" Dao's removal.

Two officers also tried to cover up the incident by giving misleading reports or withholding information, the report said.

After refusing to disembark the Louisville-bound plane because the airline had overbooked the flight, security officers forcibly removed Dao. Videos of the incident went viral.

Those cell phone videos showed officers pulling Dao up before he drops, his body goes limp, and he's dragged off the flight with his face bloody and his glasses askew, barely conscious.

@United overbook #flight3411 and decided to force random passengers off the plane. Here's how they did it:

The actions of one of the security officers violated the department's use of force policy by escalating a nonviolent situation into a violent situation, said the inspector general's office.

"The ASO’s use of excessive force caused the passenger to hit his face on an armrest, resulting in the passenger sustaining a concussion, a broken nose, and the loss of two teeth," read findings of the investigation, published in the Office of the Inspector General's 2017 third quarter report.

Dao reached a private settlement with United shortly after the violent removal.

Following the investigation's findings, Chicago's Department of Aviation (CDA) decided to terminate one officer, whose excessive force resulted in serious injuries.

The sergeant was also terminated because of the "deliberate removal of facts from an employee report," said the inspector general.

The other two officers were given five-day suspensions for their roles in the incident, which one contested and had downgraded to a two-day suspension. The other security officer resigned.

Dao's lawyer, Thomas Demetrio, released a statement on the report's findings, noting how important video posted on social media was in holding security officers accountable,

“It is unfortunate the conduct of these two City aviation employees has resulted in their losing their jobs. However, this is not a day of celebration for Dr. Dao, who is neither vindictive nor happy about Mr. Ferguson’s findings," it read.

The statement continued:

There is a lesson to be learned here for police officers at all levels. Do not state something that is clearly contrary to video viewed by the world. 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. Also, the Inspector General’s report should become the poster child for why passengers should always maintain the right to videotape mistreatment of all kinds. Our cell phones are the best deterrent to ensure mistreatment becomes a rarity.

The CDA said it will reiterate to security officers that they are not police officers. "Make completely clear through markings, procedures, and training, that the Aviation Security Division provides security services for airport staff and passenger safety, not police services," the report read.

Dao was flying home to Kentucky, where he was due to see patients the following day, but United had overbooked the flight and needed to send additional staff to Louisville. After failing to get enough passengers to voluntarily leave, United then randomly chose Dao as a passenger who had to disembark.

The incident resulted in intense outrage against United, with the airline choosing to wipe $1 billion off its market value. United discontinued the practice of forcibly removing passengers to give their seats to crew following the incident.

United has not immediately responded to BuzzFeed's request for comment.

ADVERTISEMENT