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Two officers involved in the United dragging incident fired

People with Asian community organizations from Chicago hold signs to protest April 11 after David Dao, 69, of Elizabethtown, Ky., was removed from a United Airlines airplane by police at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/AP)
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Two Chicago Department of Aviation officers involved in forcibly dragging a passenger off a United Airlines flight in April for refusing to give up his seat have been fired, according to a report released Tuesday by the city’s inspector general.

The IG’s report found that officers used excessive force in removing David Dao from the plane, escalating a non-life-threatening situation into one that resulted in “a physically violent and forceful removal of a passenger.” As a result of the officers’ actions, Dao hit his face on an armrest and sustained a concussion and a broken nose and lost two teeth, the report said. Dao later sued United and received a confidential settlement.

Video shot by Dao’s fellow passengers showed him screaming as he was dragged down the aisle of the plane. A few minutes later, Dao returned to the plane, dazed with blood running down his face.

A man refused to leave a United flight, so he was dragged off, screaming

The IG also found that one officer made misleading statements in reports and another officer left out details about the amount of force the first officer used to remove Dao from the April 9 flight from Chicago’s O’Hare to Louisville

United was sharply criticized after initial statements by its chief executive Oscar Munoz appeared to blame Dao for the altercation. The incident, which drew worldwide attention, prompted congressional hearings and forced airlines to re-examine their policies on overbooking flights.

Dao was one of three passengers asked to give up his seat to make room for airline employees who needed to fly to Louisville to be able to staff other United flights the following day. Two people left, but when Dao refused, crew members called aviation security officers, who removed Dao from the plane.

United has since changed its policy to say that passengers will not be removed from flights once they have boarded a plane, unless it involves a security issue. United and other airlines have also pledged to reduce the number of seats they overbook on flights and have increased the amount of compensation passengers can receive in exchange for giving up their seats.

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

“There is a lesson to be learned here for police officers at all levels,” Demetrio said. “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.”

United chief accepts blame for dragging incident

A spokeswoman for the city’s aviation department said the officers were fired in August and added that policies have been put into place to prevent such an incident from happening again.

“As we have clearly stated, the department is taking every action in our power to ensure that an incident like this never, ever occurs again,” said Lauren Huffman, deputy commissioner of communications. “When we released our review of security policies and protocols related to the incident on United Airlines flight 3411, we announced that we would consider the Office of the Inspector General’s recommendations for discipline, and our actions are consistent with their conclusions and guidance.”

In a report on the incident, United officials said they had allowed internal policies to get in the way of treating passengers with dignity and respect.