By now, most have seen the viral video of a United Airlines passenger being forcibly removed by police from an overbooked flight at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Videos of the incident hit social media almost immediately and the story then spread like wildfire. It just looked bad. LawNewz‘s own Elura Nanos even suggested the man may have a viable legal claim against the airline over its conduct and handling of the situation.
Almost immediately, the United Airlines CEO released a statement condemning what he saw in the videos.
United CEO response to United Express Flight 3411. pic.twitter.com/rF5gNIvVd0
— United (@united) April 10, 2017
The company’s CEO decided it was bad enough that he had to act quickly and release a statement reassuring passengers that United Airlines was taking the matter seriously and conducting an investigation, while working with authorities.
That is when things got a little strange. The apparent rush to get statements from the proper legal authorities seems to have created its own bizarre parallel story to the actual incident. As it turns out, two different Chicago police agencies work the airports. The Chicago Police Department and officers with the Chicago City Department of Aviation.
The likely combination of non-local reporters trying to get to the bottom of things first led to some confusion as to which agency was responsible. We now know it was solely the Department of Aviation officers. However, although LawNewz cannot confirm it’s authenticity, a statement attributed to the Chicago Police Department circulated on Twitter Monday by some prominent journalists that caused even more backlash and confusion.
Chicago PD statement on the United passenger is a model of why so many people don’t trust police statements pic.twitter.com/Xs3HjCpJos
— Harry Siegel (@harrysiegel) April 10, 2017
The statement claimed it was the doctor who was being irate and reckless. Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi denied it was an official CPD statement in an email to the Sun-Times newspaper. Though, he didn’t deny the agency initially released the statement at some point. Still, people were upset with the seemingly careless nature of the circulated CPD statement because it said things like the man fell and his head “subsequently struck an armrest, causing injuries to his face.”
However, we now know the man was apparently taken off the plane by officers from the Department of Aviation and they are in control of the investigation. Furthermore, a spokesperson with the Department of Aviation told the newspaper, “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 by the Department.”
Further, the spokesperson said, “That officer has been placed on leave effective today pending a thorough review of the situation.” So what happened to set off that first statement by Chicago PD? Was it an accurate portrayal of what really happened? We are still trying to get to the bottom of all this.
[image via screengrab]