Man sues American Airlines for arrest, ‘nightmare’ of 17 days in jail
While locked up for burglary, he suffered “incomprehensible life-altering trauma,” according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Tarrant County, Texas, where part of Dallas Fort International Airport is located. Worth.
Now Lowe is suing American Airlines, which he says provided law enforcement with the information that led to his arrest. Lowe, a resident of Coconino County, Arizona, is seeking a jury trial and seeking unspecified damages.
An American Airlines spokesperson told the Washington Post in an email that the company was investigating what happened to Lowe but did not comment further.
Lowe’s attorney, Scott Palmer, told the Post in an email that he believes the airline was responsible for his client’s arrest and incarceration. “Without American’s release of Michael’s name and information as the sole suspect, the detective would never have issued the warrants,” Palmer wrote. “It all starts with the disclosure of Michael’s name and his name only.”
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The chain of events that led to Lowe being imprisoned for 17 days began on May 12, 2020, when an unidentified man robbed a duty-free shop at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Detectives would later use the surveillance video to track the suspect until he boarded American Airlines Flight 2248, which departed for Reno around 7 p.m. – shortly after the robbery.
Lowe was also on that flight, having arrived after a connecting flight from his home in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Unbeknownst to Lowe, DFW Airport Police obtained a search warrant on June 18 ordering American Airlines to provide “all recorded travel data” for passengers on Flight 2248. Instead of relaying the information for everyone on the flight, however, the company reportedly gave details to the police on just one: Lowe.
The airline did so, the suit says, although Lowe did not match the description of the suspect presented by police in the search warrant affidavit: a tall, thin, white or Hispanic man with a haircut. military-style short who was wearing a black polo shirt and blue jeans when he robbed the store and then boarded the plane.
The airline tip, according to the lawsuit, led to the issuance of two warrants for the arrest of Lowe on June 30 – one for criminal burglary of a building and another for criminal mischief. Authorities entered those warrants into the database of the National Crime Information Center, which links law enforcement across the country.
There, warrants waited over a year without incident.
Then, on July 4, 2021, police in Tucumcari, NM responded to a disturbance at a holiday celebration that Lowe attended while vacationing there with friends. The police checked the identifications of the participants and, after discovering Lowe’s warrants, arrested him.
Lowe told them there had been a mistake; he couldn’t remember the last time he had been in County Tarrant and didn’t know where it was. Realizing he wasn’t going to talk about his arrest, Lowe told his friends not to worry; he would clear things up quickly and be back soon.
“He was wrong,” the lawsuit says.
Instead of returning to the festivities, Lowe spent 17 days enduring an “unending nightmare” inside the Quay County Detention Center in Tucumcari, according to the lawsuit. Upon arrival, he was ordered to strip naked and prove that he was not smuggling into the prison.
Lowe claims he barely slept in jail, which he described in his trial as “the most grueling physical test of [his] life.” At the “bottom of the pecking order,” he was forced to sleep on the concrete floor most of the time. Even when he secured a metal bunk, he could not sleep. and screamed for hours. One inmate, deprived of medication for his psychiatric disorder, shouted ‘random and incoherent’ church hymns throughout the night, the lawsuit says. Another vomited and moaned for three days in a row, he adds.
A “palpable sense of threat” infected the prison, according to the lawsuit. The violence erupted over trivial things — shared TVs, phone access, or for no apparent reason. In the suit, Lowe said he “was forced to watch” an inmate punched a young man three times in the face in quick succession. A week later, a wall was still stained with the young inmate’s blood.
“To have to sit in silence and not come to the aid of another human being – especially someone vulnerable like the young inmate – was excruciating,” the lawsuit said.
Overcrowding has resulted in “extremely unsanitary conditions,” he says. The smell of urine and feces reeked so strongly that Lowe often breathed through his mouth and used prison clothes to cover his nose. When he couldn’t take the stench any longer, he asked the prison staff for cleaning supplies. They gave him a spray bottle of water with “just a dash of disinfectant and a dirty mop with no bucket” added.
Hyper aware of his “intense physical vulnerability” in the prison showers, Lowe avoided bathing for days until he could no longer “bear the physical discomfort of the filth of his own condition”. He estimated that he showered four or five times during his 17 days in prison.
The Quay County Detention Center did not immediately respond to a request from the Post early Wednesday.
Officials put the wrong man in a mental institution for 2 years. When he objected, they called him “delusional.”
On the 17th day of his incarceration, a guard called Lowe and, without explanation, told him he was released. Lowe was given the clothes he was arrested in and walked out of jail “for nothing”. He bought a Greyhound ticket and, after being labeled homeless and kicked out of a McDonald’s restroom, boarded a bus for what was supposed to be a 12-hour ride back to Flagstaff. But the bus broke down, turning the trip into a two-day odyssey.
“As he crossed the threshold of his house, Mr. Lowe allowed himself to sob until he could no longer stand.”
According to the lawsuit, the charges against Lowe were ultimately dismissed. Nonetheless, his arrest and incarceration “shaken his identity to the core and clouded his view of the world,” according to the suit. Logically, he knows that a repeated experience is unlikely. But “his fear cannot be rationalized…it infects virtually every decision and action he makes.”
While shopping, Lowe worries that she might forget to pay for something. He gets anxious when he sees patrol cars, depending on the costume. He rushes through conversations with National Park Service police, experiences he used to have as part of his job as an outdoor guide.
“Because of this intense emotional pain, anguish, anxiety, depression and loss of self-esteem, Mr. Lowe became a man desperate to find himself,” the lawsuit states.
He blames American Airlines. The company should have provided airport police with information on each passenger listed on the flight manifest, or those matching a general description of a suspect. Instead, the airline negligently conducted its own investigation and wrongly identified Lowe as the only suspect in the airport police department’s investigation, the lawsuit alleges.
This, according to the prosecution, “likely led” to Lowe’s arrest for a crime he says he never committed.