A male passenger was misidentified by American Airlines as a suspect on the same flight who shoplifted and damaged a duty-free goods store at Dallas Fort Worth Airport.
Michael Lowe was traveling alone when he boarded the AA flight back in May 2020.
That same day, a different passenger who was seen boarding the same flight with a female companion had burglarized and damaged a duty-free shop at Terminal D.
According to a search warrant affidavit, DFW police asked AA for a manifest with the names of all the passengers on the flight, but Lowe's attorney, Scott Palmer, said AA “departed from its established procedures,” and only gave the information of a single passenger–Lowe's.
The police report stated, "American Airlines Corporate Security identified the suspect as Michael Thomas Lowe."
At the time of the flight, Lowe sported two-inch long gray hair and wore a mask. The shoplifting suspect had a military-style buzz cut and had no mask.
Despite discrepancies in their appearances, DFW Detectives believed "Michael Thomas Lowe committed the offense of Burglary and Criminal Mischief," after they claimed they reviewed all the facts in the investigation.
A year later while Lowe was attending a July 4 celebration in New Mexico, he was arrested on a warrant he was unaware of and for a crime he never committed.
Someone had reported a disturbance unrelated to Lowe, and when responding police officers took everyone's names, they noticed Lowe had two outstanding warrants from Tarrant County in Texas.
You can watch a news report here.
Man accuses American Airlines for wrongful arrest, 17 days spent in jail, lawsuit saysyoutu.be
He subsequently spent 17 days in the Quay County Jail in “grossly unsanitary conditions" at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit stated that because no one at the facility wore a mask:
“The facility’s contempt for the health, safety, and well-being of its inmates was immediately obvious."
Lowe was still unaware of what the charges were for until after his release.
He finally reached a detective at the DFW Airport police department who apprised him of the charges but could not tell Lowe why he was misidentified.
When he was admonished by the detective for apparently missing a court hearing he wasn't aware of and missed–which would have resulted in another warrant for his arrest–Lowe sought a lawyer and retained Palmer.
Palmer contacted the DFW detective and informed him the DFW police apprehended the wrong person.
Palmer also asked the detective to compare Lowe's mugshot to the photo of the suspect. It was then the detective realized the error.
Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office dismissed all charges against Lowe, but he suffered significant trauma since the horrific ordeal left him in a perpetual state of anxiety.
The suit said Lowe “now suffers an ongoing state of hypervigilance that has robbed him of any ability to rest or relax.”
“Mr. Lowe’s strip search, particularly the most demeaning aspects of it such as exposing his anus, seeing the young inmate get punched repeatedly in the face, the blood on the floor and wall, and the sounds of the inmate that he tried to care for, all play in his head without warning and evoke the corresponding feelings of shame, fear, anger, and helplessness that he felt at the time he experienced them.”
The wrongful arrest also severely affected his job as a tour guide.
A scheduled two-week private tour in Alaska for five people had to be canceled due to his time behind bars, and he had to refund everyone who each paid $6,000 at his own expense.
The suit said that due to Lowe's arrest warrants still being active even after his release, he could not work until September 2021. As a result, his longtime employees quit because of the uncertainty of the situation.
Palmer blamed American Airlines.
"Without American doing what they did, (the detective) never would have issued a warrant. It all starts with the disclosure of his name and his name only," he said.
"I’ve never heard of this fact pattern in my life or my career."
"If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.”