Jason Powell, a passenger on the same United Airlines flight as David Dao, said that one of the three officers was “laughing” as he dragged the 69-year-old doctor off the plane.
On April 11, the Chicago Tribune published an op-ed letter in which a Louisville, Kentucky, high school teacher described the incident on Sunday that involved Dao being forcibly removed from an overbooked flight at O’Hare International Airport.
“The disgusting mishandling of the situation included everyone from the rude ticket agent who demanded that this man give up his seat on the flight United overbooked, to one of the officers laughing in the midst of the incident, to the violent, abusive way the passenger was dragged off the plane by the officer,” Powell wrote.
The Louisville Male High School teacher said he and seven of his students were returning home from a spring break trip when the scuffle broke out between aviation police and Dao.
“It was the worst possible model for my students, and frankly, was traumatizing to many of us who watched this from such close proximity,” Powell wrote.
“I was appalled at how United Airlines and the officers handled the situation, but I was also encouraged by my fellow passengers’ attempts to interfere — despite how helpless we all felt,” said Powell. “Some passengers audibly protested to the officers, some stood and removed themselves from the plane rather than continue to witness the abuse, and one father, while trying to console his 8-year-old daughter, confronted the officer saying, among other things, ‘you ought to be ashamed of yourself!’ These are the models of which I hope our children will see more.”
Dao, who was taken to a hospital following the incident to be treated for injuries to his face, is set to file a lawsuit against United Airlines.
The three Chicago Department of Aviation officers have all been suspended, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration announced.