Photographer sues American Airlines after being tackled to floor for ‘bomb’ which was vintage camera

Photographer is suing for defamation, false imprisonment and emotional distress

Eleanor Sly
Friday 19 August 2022 16:01 BST
The lawsuit seeks to win $75,000 for the unidentified man
The lawsuit seeks to win $75,000 for the unidentified man (Getty Images)

An unidentified man is in the process of suing American Airlines (AA) after he was tackled to the floor when his vintage camera was mistaken for a bomb.

The amature photographer is suing AA for defamation, false imprisonment and emotional distress following the flight, which was travelling to New York from Indianapolis.

A fellow passenger mistook his camera for a bomb and thought that the videos he was watching and instructions he was reading about vintage cameras on his phone related to explosive devices.

The incident took place in October 2021 and resulted in the hasty evacuation of passengers at New York’s LaGuardia airport before the man was detained by FBI agents.

The lawsuit seeks to win $75,000 in restitution on behalf of the plaintiff.

The lawsuit alleges that a female passenger with an infant who was seated next to the man treated him with suspicion for much of the flight.

Rolling Stone reports that she repeatedly left her assigned seat and attempted to move elsewhere on the aircraft, including while the seatbelt light was illuminated.

The woman eventually took her concerns to the flight attendants who allegedly made no attempt to either speak to the man or relocate the woman to a new seat.

No member of the AA crew attempted to question the man about his camera equipment during the flight as he was “sleeping or dozing” for most of the journey, according to the suit.

Instead, the AA flight attendants sent the woman “back to sit next to Plaintiff and asked her to spy on Plaintiff and report back to Defendants, instead of Defendants ascertaining the facts for themselves”, the suit alleges.

As the aircraft began its descent into La Guardia, the man took his camera from its bag to capture a photograph of the New York City skyline. At this point, the filing claims that the woman began to shout “Don’t do it!” and “We’re dead!” at the man.

The plane was forced to make an abrupt landing and all passengers were evacuated from the aircraft, while the man was tackled to the ground by law enforcement. Footage of the incident was shared on Twitter at the time.

According to Rolling Stone, the court filing says that AA employees on the flight would later tell the Federal Aviation Administration and other government officials they thought the photographer was a threat as, according to the female passenger, he “had something dangerous”, “was timing the flight with a timing device”, “was texting pictures of bombs” and “was looking at pictures of bombs and how to put bombs together.”

However, the filing claims he only used his phone to set and subsequently turn off an alarm to ensure he woke up before the flight touched down.

The lawsuit states that federal investigators found no evidence on the plaintiff’s iPhone or among his belongings to support the statements made by the passenger to AA’s flight crew.

During the man’s detainment he was allegedly neither read his rights nor allowed a phone call. Upon his release, he was dropped at a taxi stand in the middle of the night by federal agents, claims the lawsuit.

AA allegedly did not issue an apology to the man following the ordeal.

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