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.
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?