Aviation officers say United passenger removed using ‘minimal but necessary force’

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CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 19: United Airlines jets sit at gates at O'Hare International Airport on September 19, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. In 2013, 67 million passengers passed through O'Hare, another 20 million passed through Chicago's Midway Airport, and the two airports combined moved more than 1.4 million tons of air cargo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

CHICAGO — Documents released Monday shed new light on the removal of a passenger from a United flight earlier this month that caused an international uproar after video of the incident went viral.

Documents released by the Chicago Department of Aviation include eyewitness statements and reports made by security officers and supervisors. The documents were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by WGN Investigates.

Among them, a recording of a phone call made to police by United Airlines employees captures the decision United’s CEO now says he regrets: asking aviation police to pull a paying passenger off a plane.

The first officer to respond to the scene said in his official statement that Dr. David Dao refused to leave his seat, saying “I’m not leaving this flight that I paid money for. I don’t care if I get arrested.”

Two other security officers arrived on the scene afterwards, documents show. The officers say they repeatedly asked Dao to leave his seat, but he refused.

Worried travelers pulled out their cell phones and recorded what happened next as an officer took hold of Dao and attempted to drag him out of his seat.

In their statements, the security officers say Dao began swinging his arms as the officer pulled him from his seat, knocking his arm and causing Dao to fall face-first onto an armrest across the aisle. Videos of the event do not show this moment clearly.

Dao’s attorney Thomas Demetrio said the 69-year-old physician suffered a concussion and broken nose in the fall.

One quote from the documents that stands out: officers describe only using “minimal but necessary force to remove the subject.”

Dao was dragged off the plane, and he reportedly laid on the jetway for a short time, waiting for paramedics to arrive, when he got up and ran back onto the plane and made it all the way to the aft galley. Statements by a witness and an officer say Dao refused to leave again, saying they would have to “kill him.”

Dr. Dao was eventually taken off the plane by paramedics, and then sent in an ambulance to Lutheran General Hospital.

The officers involved have been placed on leave.

We’re still reading through the dozens of pages of reports, and will update the story as more information becomes available.

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