American Airlines Traveler Wrongly Jailed For 17 Days For Crime He Didn’t Commit

American Airlines Traveler Wrongly Jailed For 17 Days For Crime He Didn’t Commit

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According to a shocking new lawsuit filed on Monday, a man spent 17 days in jail because American Airlines wrongly accused him of a crime he had never even heard of… 14 months after the fact.

American Airlines wrongly accuses traveler of theft

This incident initially dates back to May 2020, when Michael Lowe was connecting in Dallas (DFW) while enroute from Flagstaff (FLG) to Reno (RNO). At the same time he was at the airport, a traveler was accused of shoplifting at a store at the airport.

Police had determined the man was flying to Reno, the same flight Lowe was traveling on. The crime was reported to airport police, and with the knowledge that this traveler was flying to Reno, American Airlines was asked to send over the footage from the gate, and a manifest with everyone who boarded the flight.

According to the lawsuit, American “departed from the established procedures,” and only sent the police a single passenger’s information — that of Lowe.

This is despite the fact that Lowe looked nothing like the shoplifter. Lowe had two-inch long gray hair and wore a mask, while the surveillance footage showed that a man with a buzz cut wearing no mask was the one was carrying several items that were believed to be stolen.

Based on the information provided by American Airlines, two arrest warrants were issued for Lowe — one for felony burglary and one for criminal mischief.

American Airlines passenger spends 17 days in jail

14 months after the incident in question, Lowe was on vacation in Tucumcari, New Mexico, visiting friends. He was at a July 4th party, and someone called the police regarding a disturbance unrelated to Lowe. When police got there, everyone’s information was taken. When officers pulled up Lowe’s information, they saw the outstanding warrants, and he was arrested… for a crime he had never even heard of.

Lowe then spent 17 days in jail before being released, and he didn’t even find out what he was accused of until after he got released.

In the lawsuit, Lowe details his excruciating 17 days in jail:

  • Lowe was ordered to strip naked and forced to bend over and cough as he was searched for contraband
  • He was put in the general prison population quarantine pod, alongside people accused of violent crimes
  • Lowe feared for his safety, as New Mexico had the 10th highest death rate from COVID-19 in the country, and he was at one of the three jails in the country where officers refused to be tested for COVID-19
  • Lowe had to sleep on the concrete floor, but did not get much rest due to his “constant state of fear of confrontation, physical abuse, or sexual victimization”
  • A young man punched him in the face three times, and a streak of blood remained on the wall for days
  • After eight days in jail, Lowe was taken to a local judge; he still received no information about why he was there, but the judge gave him the option of waiving extradition or waiting for Texas authorities to pick him up
  • After 17 days, Lowe was told he would be released; he was allowed to leave jail, but still wasn’t given any information about why he was there in the first place
  • Lowe walked miles to McDonald’s, where he waited at a bus stop; he tried to clean himself in the bathroom, but was kicked out by staff
  • He then took a 12-hour bus ride to Flagstaff, but the bus broke down, so it took him two full days to make it back to Flagstaff
  • Upon returning home he was informed that another warrant was issued for him because he had not appeared in court that same morning
  • The detectives still wouldn’t tell Lowe what he was accused of, other than that American Airlines provided the information that lead to his arrest
  • At this point Lowe retained a lawyer, and after the lawyer asked DFW airport police to compare photos of Lowe to the surveillance footage, all charges were dismissed

Not only did Lowe suffer trauma, but he also suffered financially. He could not work while in jail, including a two-week tour of Alaska he had planned with five people, each of whom had paid him $6,000. The trip had to be canceled, so he had to refund them. Furthermore, the arrest warrants remained active even weeks after he was released, so he could not work during that period.

This story is simply unreal…

This story is shocking on so many levels. Look, I’m not delusional, and don’t think the US justice system gets everything right. But the idea of having warrants out for your arrest for a crime you’re not even familiar with, and then spending 17 days in jail without even being told what you did, is simply beyond human dignity.

While I’m not someone who usually likes how litigious our culture in the US is, someone needs to pay for this mistake. I can only imagine how traumatic this must have been. Then of course there’s the question of how Lowe was even accused of this to begin with. He looks nothing like the alleged shoplifter.

Bottom line

While people get incorrectly arrested all too often, this story is especially bad. A man spent 17 days in jail because he had two warrants out for his arrest for a crime he didn’t commit. Heck, he didn’t even look like the guy who committed the crime.

According to a lawsuit, all of this happened because American Airlines provided the police his information as the man who committed the crime. I’m curious to see how this lawsuit goes. If this story is as it appears, Lowe deserves Concierge Key status for life, and a lot more…

What do you make of this horrible incident?

Conversations (57)
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  1. FlyerDon Guest

    This just doesn’t add up. DFW airport police would have investigated this crime. They would have had no trouble obtaining the entire passenger list if they asked for it. They would have been the ones that looked at the video. They would have issued the warrant based on their investigation. If they issued a warrant without confirming that the shoplifter in the video was Lowe they have some explaining to do. After Lowe was arrested...

    This just doesn’t add up. DFW airport police would have investigated this crime. They would have had no trouble obtaining the entire passenger list if they asked for it. They would have been the ones that looked at the video. They would have issued the warrant based on their investigation. If they issued a warrant without confirming that the shoplifter in the video was Lowe they have some explaining to do. After Lowe was arrested did any of his party friends try to find out what happened to him and why he was arrested? Did he or his friends try to hire an attorney? Did the police in New Mexico contact the DFW airport police or Tarrant County’s sheriff’s department to see if they wanted Lowe held so they could come and get him? Without more information it seems like Lowe was a victim of the legal system and that American had very little to do with it.

  2. Fed UP Guest

    So much for American exceptionalism and the broken "justice" system..... You write about this, since it was a poor, American Airlines passenger... this happens every day to 100s of people in the US.....

  3. Christian Lorenz Guest

    It's so sad to read information so badly and horrible experience that can happen to anyone. This news nor only damage that person reputation. It also damage American Airlines reputation. AA is my favorite Airlines. But it hurts when someone innocent go through that horrible nightmare experience. CL

  4. Bort Guest

    "Concierge Key status for life"? I know most of the people who read this website would drool over the idea of getting that status for life. But I suspect that Mr. Lowe will try to avoid ever taking another AA flight or stepping foot in DFW ever again.

  5. JorgeGeorge Paez Guest

    Some of the details don't make sense. The law states you must be charged with something within 72 hours. Cops just can't throw you in a hole for 17 days. Does New Mexico not have public defenders? Oh, and other sites report he saw another man punched in the face not him. But the outrageous claim that he was not charged officially within 17 days is crazy. They are not supposed to do that. Why...

    Some of the details don't make sense. The law states you must be charged with something within 72 hours. Cops just can't throw you in a hole for 17 days. Does New Mexico not have public defenders? Oh, and other sites report he saw another man punched in the face not him. But the outrageous claim that he was not charged officially within 17 days is crazy. They are not supposed to do that. Why did American Airlines decide to play detective? Why were the cops/DA's so lazy? I hope he wins millions from all the scum that wronged him. Oh, and in case you didn't know, jail sucks. The cops think everyone there is guilty (innocent until proven guilty HaHa!) Every high school senior in this country should be made to spend a week in jail. Scared straight! You will see some jail reform then!

    1. John Guest

      Jooooooorge knows ALL about jail.

    2. Bort Guest

      He was charged with something. That's what those arrest warrants from Texas were. The NM authorities were holding him pending extradition to Texas.

  6. Randy Warren Guest

    Just to clarify one mystery of this: It is possible that the jail and judge merely knew there was an arrest warrant from another state, and the man was not facing charges in the state where arrested. For this reason, the only legal question before this judge was whether to extradite this man to Texas...or the judge with 50 arraignments to conduct in 2 to 3 hours that morning was too backed-up to look beyond...

    Just to clarify one mystery of this: It is possible that the jail and judge merely knew there was an arrest warrant from another state, and the man was not facing charges in the state where arrested. For this reason, the only legal question before this judge was whether to extradite this man to Texas...or the judge with 50 arraignments to conduct in 2 to 3 hours that morning was too backed-up to look beyond the only relevant question to be decided that morning (extradition). Thus, this was not a circumstance where the defendant was to have charges read and a plea entered. It would be Texas that would have the specific charges.

    1. JorgeGeorge Paez Guest

      And they will not pay to send him to Tarrent County and Tarrent County isn't going to send cops there to pick up a MISDEMEANOR!

    2. John Guest

      Wow! Jooooorge Peez is really getting off today.

  7. TProphet Member

    In what universe is shoplifting a felony?

    Oh, Texas. Can they just kick us out of their insane country, please?

    1. Jax Guest

      Shoplifting can be a felony in any state. I live in a liberal state and the limit for a felony is only $750.

  8. Blaz Guest

    Who thought that you can be charged of a crime without being told what it was? Is that a thing in the US? I thought that was what they did in authoritarian countries, not in a democracy. Time to change the laws.

    1. JorgeGeorge Paez Guest

      You are supposed to be charged within 72 hours or you go free. Something here smells bad. And it's an effing misdemeanor!

    2. John Guest

      Calm down, Jooooooorge! It's only a blog.

  9. Jkjkjk Guest

    Land of the free. Murica murica more AR15 please!

  10. Tunico Guest

    He will receive a lifetime first class flight like the employees has and a lot $$$$$. I believe he is happy now.

  11. Christopher L Guest

    If Lowe were black he'd be dead by now. Concierge key status? Let's talk a settlement in the millions. SHAME on AA and DFW and all the law enforcement people involved along the nearly three-week trail.

  12. Robert Thompson Guest

    Something seems very off about all of this. Does DFW not have surveillance cameras and footage, aside from AA’s cameras? We’re there not surveillance cameras in the store that was robbed? You can’t move an inch in a US airport these days without your actions being recorded. Law enforcement relied solely on a single name from a manifest and the image of only one passenger boarding a flight? And why was he unable to have...

    Something seems very off about all of this. Does DFW not have surveillance cameras and footage, aside from AA’s cameras? We’re there not surveillance cameras in the store that was robbed? You can’t move an inch in a US airport these days without your actions being recorded. Law enforcement relied solely on a single name from a manifest and the image of only one passenger boarding a flight? And why was he unable to have legal counsel from day one? Many things do not add up in this story. It would seem that DFW Law enforcement and the DFW airport are way more liable than AA.

    1. Bob Guest

      I'm thinking this is not a question of evidence which I'm sure there was plenty of. I'm betting it's those in charge assuming it's a no big deal shoplifter case that they're not so interested in following through because they have plenty of other more serious crimes to deal with never ever questioning that they might have made a mistake.

  13. Kris Guest

    American Airlines consistently fails to follow their own procedures, constantly. This is just another example, though with much more serious consequences.

    Whether it’s boarding times/order, to inflight service, to contacting customer care… and, now including responding to law enforcement… AA consistently provides inconsistent service.

    Their inconsistency is one of the few reliable things about this airline, other than mishandled baggage and schedule irregularities…

    1. JorgeGeorge Paez Guest

      Who ever did this at American Airlines needs to be fired and shamed publicly! Union or not, they need to be canceled in the extreme! This is outrageous!

  14. RF Guest

    Some employee at AA decided that Lowe should suffer. This person needs to pay.

  15. Jake from MSP Guest

    Sounds like he must have rented from Hertz.

  16. Ken S Guest

    Reasonable people should reserve absolute opinion until actual facts from credible sources are verified (and not from a travel/points blog). Making the assumption that American Airlines determined that Mr. Shaw was guilty is just irresponsible. In all probability, AA provided specifically what was requested of them in a subpoena request. I'm not defending false imprisonment, as it is inexcusable, but culpability lies w/ the (lack of) execution of due process at multiple levels, not with...

    Reasonable people should reserve absolute opinion until actual facts from credible sources are verified (and not from a travel/points blog). Making the assumption that American Airlines determined that Mr. Shaw was guilty is just irresponsible. In all probability, AA provided specifically what was requested of them in a subpoena request. I'm not defending false imprisonment, as it is inexcusable, but culpability lies w/ the (lack of) execution of due process at multiple levels, not with AA.

    1. TProphet Member

      This article was posted in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune with a lot more details. It looks pretty damning for American. Someone there clearly had a vendetta against him.

    2. JorgeGeorge Paez Guest

      Sorry, meant Ken S.

    3. JorgeGeorge Paez Guest

      OK butt wipe corporate lawyer. Cops asked for a MANIFEST, American Airlines own detective Columbo sent video saying here is the guilty one! Without checking anything! My guess, someone at AA had it in for this guy. They need to pay/suffer!

    4. John Guest

      OMG! Shut up already JOOOOOOOORGE!

  17. TravelinWilly Diamond

    So AA is like the Hertz car rental of airlines, having law enforcement arrest their customers.

    AA has basically replaced UA as the garbage airline.

    1. loungeabuser Guest

      Maybe, like Hertz, AA will start having people who didn't fly their airline arrested, just so those who did fly AA have no reason to book away.

      Just a marketing idea.

  18. Stanley C Gold

    @Lucky he was not punched in the face. He saw someone getting punched in the face.

  19. Luke Guest

    I'm curious what was the actual item shoplifted that led to all this, a $25 shirt? There wouldn't have been an arrest at all for this then if it were at SFO where you can take anything worth under $1k without arrest.

  20. globetrotter Guest

    AA is culpable for providing cops only Lowe's photo instead of the entire footage of fliers boarding the flight to Reno and let the cops figure it out. It is akin to a witness retracted the mistaken identity of the suspect, after the suspect has served jail time. The cops and prosecutor are guilty of jumping the gun and arrested and prosecuted an innocent person without due diligence. Cops and courts are joined at the...

    AA is culpable for providing cops only Lowe's photo instead of the entire footage of fliers boarding the flight to Reno and let the cops figure it out. It is akin to a witness retracted the mistaken identity of the suspect, after the suspect has served jail time. The cops and prosecutor are guilty of jumping the gun and arrested and prosecuted an innocent person without due diligence. Cops and courts are joined at the hip. Lowe failed to understand the judicial system by not demanding to have a lawyer represent him from the get go. His buddies at the party did not assist him in posting a bail and retain a lawyer after the arrest. True friends are those who stick with you in bad times not just party time.

  21. AlohaDaveKennedy Guest

    Coulda been worse if he had rented with Hertz to get back home after his false arrest - he might have ended up as a repeat false offender.

    1. D3kingg Guest

      @Aloha Dave

      Had it been Hertz rental car he would have only been facing a fraudulent $400 smoking fee.
      So he spent 17 days in Jail. Grew some hair on his chest no harm no fouls. You want to blame this on some DFW mall cop ? What’s that have to do with American Airlines ? And the other story 4 flies were in a salad ? Cry me a river.

    2. dander Guest

      Why didn't he ask for a lawyer? Everyone knows the rules in the US.

    3. Ray Gold

      Who pissed in your Wheaties? @AlohaDaveKennedy tosses in a little humor and you go off with a question salad that have zero relevance to his remark? Stay on track. If you have questions, ask in your own post, not in a response. You look like every other moron that can't stay focused.

  22. Bruce Guest

    @BenSchlappig “And I don’t think that the US Justice System gets everything right”
    The US justice system gets a lot more wrong than it does right. From drug laws targeting communities of colour, the prison industrial complex, rigged corporate law, the freedom of the police to act like militias, humiliation of convicts, guilty until proven innocent, the US justice system is rotten from the core and rotten by design. Get rid of the perception...

    @BenSchlappig “And I don’t think that the US Justice System gets everything right”
    The US justice system gets a lot more wrong than it does right. From drug laws targeting communities of colour, the prison industrial complex, rigged corporate law, the freedom of the police to act like militias, humiliation of convicts, guilty until proven innocent, the US justice system is rotten from the core and rotten by design. Get rid of the perception that the justice system even wants to get things right, let alone gets them right the majority of the time.

    1. Syd Guest

      I honestly can't understand how you guys even live in that hellhole, takes so much courage... I'd be scared to even step foot outside.

    2. D3kingg Guest

      @Bruce

      OMAAT comment of the year.

  23. Greg Guest

    It’s outrageous and makes clear what too many people who live in higher crime areas and are more likely to be mistaken deal with. And they don’t often get the media to tell their story.

    So odd he didn’t have a chance to have an attorney upfront.

    And goodness May 2020 with so few in the airports you’d think it would be easier to get right. And who flies via DFW to Reno from Flagstaff! Just drive to PHX and get a flight.

  24. Joshua Member

    American provided the requested information; they didn’t arrest the guy. Mr. Lowe’s beef is with the police and prosecutor who took such flimsy evidence and issued an arrest warrant. Holding American Airlines liable will only dissuade anyone from cooperating with the police in the future.

    1. Lermish New Member

      The police/justice system are very culpable BUT you are not correct according to the gentleman's attorney. It is normal in situations like these for the airline to give the police their entire passenger manifest and boarding video. This was requested of AA. However, they only turned in this guys information leading the police to believe he was the only suspect.

      https://www.businessinsider.com/man-sues-american-airlines-says-staff-called-him-shoplifter-jailed-2022-6

    2. Joshua Guest

      It the usual procedure is for the airline to turn over the entire manifest and video when the police didn't receive all of the materials they (the police) should have requested the additional material so they could make the most informed decision on an arrest as possible. Again, its the police who made the error, not AA

    3. Watson Gold

      They both screwed up. Dunno how you can defend AA here.

  25. Ed Guest

    Lowe was certainly wronged but proving all the horrible events that transpired were American's fault is going to be difficult. The airline played a small by supplying a photo. The justice system failed him in the worst way but still it followed its own guidelines, as inept as they may be.

  26. SINJim Guest

    The story reads like the accused did not retain a lawyer until he was already home in Flagstaff. Why wait that long given the circumstances? A lawyer on day 1 may have challenged the arrest leading to the immediate dropping of charges.

    1. Dempseyzdad Member

      Exactly. Demand a lawyer as soon as you are able to after arrest. They will find the details and fight to get you out, that's what they do. Seventeen days without calling for a lawyer to find out why you've even been arrested sounds...strange.

    2. Bob Guest

      Well he was in Mexico. The judge didn't even tell him anything. Different set of due process.

    3. putout Guest

      I think you will find he was not in Mexico but *New* Mexico, where the US Constitution and the due process therein definitely applies.

  27. Ksa63 Guest

    Wrongly jailed? The jailing apparently was not false.

  28. Geoff Guest

    Sounds like American and Hertz should consider reciprocity and bonus points for combined prison stays. Idiots.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Bruce Guest

@BenSchlappig “And I don’t think that the US Justice System gets everything right” The US justice system gets a lot more wrong than it does right. From drug laws targeting communities of colour, the prison industrial complex, rigged corporate law, the freedom of the police to act like militias, humiliation of convicts, guilty until proven innocent, the US justice system is rotten from the core and rotten by design. Get rid of the perception that the justice system even wants to get things right, let alone gets them right the majority of the time.

5
Lermish New Member

The police/justice system are very culpable BUT you are not correct according to the gentleman's attorney. It is normal in situations like these for the airline to give the police their entire passenger manifest and boarding video. This was requested of AA. However, they only turned in this guys information leading the police to believe he was the only suspect. https://www.businessinsider.com/man-sues-american-airlines-says-staff-called-him-shoplifter-jailed-2022-6

3
putout Guest

I think you will find he was not in Mexico but *New* Mexico, where the US Constitution and the due process therein definitely applies.

2
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