Arizona man who says he spent 17 days in jail sues American Airlines, claiming he was misidentified to police

Arizona man who says he spent 17 days in jail sues American Airlines, claiming he was misidentified to police

An Arizona man has sued American Airlines, claiming the airline’s negligence led to him spending 17 days in jail after he was misidentified to police investigating a robbery at a duty-free store at Dallas International Airport. Fort Worth in 2020, according to court documents.

The 26-page lawsuit, filed Monday in a Texas court, says Michael Lowe, a professional running and outdoor guide, was on the same flight as the suspect, whose activities were captured on video. Airport police obtained a search warrant for “any and all recorded travel data” for all passengers on the flight, according to the court document.

The lawsuit alleges that the airlines “strayed from their established procedures” and identified only one passenger: Lowe.

The airline issued a statement Wednesday about the search warrant.

“As required by law, American cooperates and responds to court orders for information related to possible criminal activity, and that is what we did in this case when we were presented with a search warrant,” the statement said.

Michael Lowe sent a selfie from the plane just before takeoff, according to the suit.

What happened? This alleges Lowe against American Airlines

The incident occurred on May 12, 2020 at an airport duty-free store. The man authorities identified as the suspect appears in surveillance camera video boarding the same flight as Lowe, according to the lawsuit.

The legal claim alleges that, based on the misidentification of American Airlines, warrants were issued for Lowe’s arrest in Tarrant County, Texas.

More than a year later, on July 4 of 2021, Lowe was arrested while attending an event while on vacation in New Mexico when police searching for a riot suspect searched his name and found open warrants, according to demand.

He was booked into the Quay County jail in New Mexico, where he spent eight days before seeing a magistrate and being told there was no bond because he was a fugitive, the suit says. He ended up forgoing extradition to Texas, but was released another nine days later, according to the lawsuit.

“I have never heard or seen this pattern of events in my 25 years as a lawyer. If it can happen to Michael it can happen to anyone. He was just another passenger on a flight. He did nothing wrong, but American unfairly singled him out as a suspect in a investigation for a felony, resulting in 17 days in jail for an unrelated crime,” one of Lowe’s attorneys, Scott Palmer, told Citizen Free Press.

“American Airlines is responsible for what happened here. Without American’s disclosure of Michael’s name and information as the only suspect, the detective would never have issued the warrants. It all starts with the disclosure of Michael’s name and his name only,” he added.

Investigation after release from prison

According to the lawsuit, after Lowe was released from prison and returned to Flagstaff, he began his own investigation, including calling a detective from the airport police department who told him he had missed a court appearance in Texas and needed to turn himself in.

But then things changed.

“Sometime after Mr. Lowe was released from jail, Detective Torres obtained Mr. Lowe’s mugshot from Quay County and compared it to the culprit’s photos; it was obvious that American Airlines had the wrong person, and that Mr. Lowe was not responsible for the robbery on May 12 of 2020,” the document says.

Lowe’s attorneys contacted the detective and the Tarrant County prosecutor’s office and were assured the charges had been dismissed, according to the lawsuit.

Citizen Free Press has contacted Dallas Fort Worth airport police for comment.

“As a result of the incident described herein, Mr. Lowe experienced mental anguish and emotional distress in the past and, with a reasonable probability, such mental anguish and emotional distress will continue in the future,” the suit says, adding that it also lost money and potential income.

The legal action only names American Airlines as a defendant. Lowe requests a jury trial and unspecified damages.

Ben Oakley
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