Jewish man held in headlock during flight because he was acting “suspicious.”

Seth Stein is an architect who travels around a lot working for wealthy clients. On May 22nd flight to New York Mr. Stein suddenly found himself pinned to his seat by a supposed off-duty police officer who put him into a headlock while flight staff looked on. Just what was the reason this person thought he might be a terrorist?

“This man could have garrotted me and what was awful was that one or two of the passengers went up afterwards to thank him,” said Mr Stein. He has since been told by airline staff he was targeted because he was using an iPod, had used the toilet when he got on the plane and that his tan made him appear “Arab”. [Link]

So don’t own an iPod and use the plane’s toilet while sporting a tan or you too may find yourself being physically accosted as a terrorist. But wait, it gets better.

“This guy just told me his name was Michael Wilk, that he was with the New York Police Department, that I’d been acting suspiciously and should stay calm. I could barely find my voice and couldn’t believe it was happening,” said Mr Stein.

“He went into my pocket and took out my passport and my iPod. All the other passengers were looking concerned.” Eventually, cabin crew explained that the captain had run a security check on Mr Stein after being alerted by the policeman and that this had cleared him. The passenger had been asked to go back to his seat before he had restrained Mr Stein. When the plane arrived in New York, Mr Stein was met by apologetic police officers who offered to fast-track him out of the airport.

Mr Stein said: “The other passengers looked [at] me and said, ‘What did you do?’ It was so humiliating. The fact is he [the police officer] was told I was OK and should have left me alone. The airline had a duty of care. I’ve got to travel to the US soon, but I’m paying an extra £500 to travel in business class.”

The air crew cleared him and yet this asshat still put him into a headlock? What the hell? The airline is also engaging in much ass-hattery.

American Airlines apologised to Mr Stein, who was born in New York, but withdrew an initial offer of $2,000 compensation on the grounds it would be an admission of liability. In a letter dated 30 May, the airline said it had done everything possible to try and protect Mr Stein.

It read: “Unfortunately, as in any public gathering, there may be occasions when a conflict arises between people or when one individual’s actions bother another… As our crew members may not always be witness to the inappropriate acts of a particular passenger, there may be a limit to what our crews can do to improve behaviour that is perceived as a nuisance.”

Give me a fucking break. This is just getting ridiculous. It’s only a matter of time before someone ends up killing an innocent person because they were “suspicious.”

Via ***Dave.

28 thoughts on “Jewish man held in headlock during flight because he was acting “suspicious.”

  1. Well.  This is certainly fucked up.  Is my Lebanese mother going to be put into a headlock the next time she flies – which she does very frequently?  Can I now no longer use the lav on a plane when I have a tan?

  2. I wasn’t aware that iPod use is an “Arabic” trait. If that’s the case, then the FBI ought to consider raiding any given college campus, high school, city park, or mall at any given time.

    And if having a tan is cause for suspicion, then maybe I should be labeled a terrorist between the months of March and October.

  3. No no no guys.  All this means, is that in order to fight terrorism we must give up some liberties.  This is necessary cause after 9/11 we are in a different climate… and…  **SLAP**

    Sorry about that…

    But seriously, I would expect the airlines to stand up against this feverishly.  This has to dramatically affect their profits as a result of less people flying.  If I was an airline I would compensate the accosted individual and say fuck you to the other guy.

  4. Well, there’s some irony that he was assumed to be an Islamicist terror suspect, being, in fact, Jewish.  And, if he has Semitic features, it might have led some idiot to assume that, well, he must be an Arab (given all that suspicious lav visiting and iPod listening-to).

  5. As to the airlines.

    1.  Presumably the execs, in consultation with Legal, decided that any possible reduction in passengers was more than balanced against the multi-million dollar law suit that Mr Stein might be more likely to win should they seem to be admitting liability.

    2.  They are probably right.  But it makes me less likely to fly American.

    3.  That is, without a doubt, the lamest apology letter I’ve ever had the misfortunate to read.

  6. And, if he has Semitic features, it might have led some idiot to assume that, well, he must be an Arab

    I can see that happening, a decent number of people have thought that I’m Jewish; I picked up my facial features from the Assyrian side of the family.

  7. there may be a limit to what our crews can do to improve behaviour that is perceived as a nuisance

    Did that pertain to the Jewish bloke or the Cop? wink
    If I was head-locked on a plane I wouldn’t think of it as a nuisance – it’d be more like an assault.

  8. But seriously, I would expect the airlines to stand up against this feverishly.  This has to dramatically affect their profits as a result of less people flying.

    I don’t see the airline (i.e. the staff on board of the plane) having done much wrong.

    As ***Dave said, it was probably the lawyers afterward…

  9. It’s only a matter of time before someone ends up killing an innocent person because they were “suspicious.”

    In a way, they already did. Didn’t they (airport security) shoot that one mentally disturbed person who was acting suspiciously (in this case really suspiciously, though more like a mentally deranged person instead of a terrorist) while his wife was shouting that he had not taken his pills? Happened on some US airport some months ago.

  10. This is the second such incident I’ve heard about in as many days.  The policeman should be fired (or at least sent to see a therapist).  He obviously doesn’t have the nerves to do his job anymore.  The airline should cough up the $2,000, and you better believe it is admitting liability.  I’m a pilot and I had it drilled into my skull that >I< am in charge during any flight.  I am responsible.  If something bad happens, they look at me before they look at anything else.  By extension, that means the airline should be in charge on a flight, not a policeman or scared passengers.  The buck stops with them.  This wasn’t an accident or misunderstanding.  This simply should not have happened.  For that, I blame the airline.  The flight crew could have stopped this at any time by telling both of them to return to their seats.  Even the policeman has to listen to them.  But they didn’t.

    In addition, since the policeman thinks ipods and toilets are a dangerous combination should be beated with a whiffle bat several hundred times…. after he’s fired or put on leave.

  11. In a way, they already did. Didn’t they (airport security) shoot that one mentally disturbed person who was acting suspiciously (in this case really suspiciously, though more like a mentally deranged person instead of a terrorist) while his wife was shouting that he had not taken his pills? Happened on some US airport some months ago.

    That was actually a clean shooting, you can only tell somebody claiming they’ve got a bomb not to reach into a bag so many times before you either:
    A. Shoot him
    B. Wait to see if an explosion actually occurs.

  12. That was actually a clean shooting, you can only tell somebody claiming they’ve got a bomb not to reach into a bag so many times before you either:
    A. Shoot him
    B. Wait to see if an explosion actually occurs.

    The guy that got shot wasn’t reaching into a bag, he was running down the ramp.  Grant it that is still scary as hell for the officer that fired the shots, and it is easy for me to say after the fact that he should have shot the guy in the leg, but I think there are many over-anxious cops that are a little trigger happy.

    In my hometown there was a case where a kid with mental retardation would never pay when he filled up at a particular gas station.  The owner and the employees knew, and knew the kids family, and would just call the father for the payment.  One day at the station a new kid was working, and when the kid with mental retardation fled, the cops were immediately called.  The cops chased the kid for a good 45 minutes.  The kid then got on the Interstate near town because he was freaking out.  The cops set up a road block at the nearest overpass, which was a mile or so up the Interstate.  The kid slowed down as he came up to the road block, and stopped on the Interstate.  Police got at and that freaked out the kid more, so he started to hit the pedal and was heading for a cop out of his car and on the ground.

    I believe final reports estimated the speed of the car to be 15mph or so and the cop on the ground fired 6 shots into the car killing the kid.  Seems like an over-anxious trigger finger to me and unnecessary force, but we all have our own perceptions of things.  If it was me I would have shot the tires of the car.

  13. I knew someday being a pasty white, clean shaven, nobody that can’t afford an iPod would pay off.  Maybe after they get all of the folks that don’t look like me restrained and removed from the plane they’ll see me wearing a “God bless America” or “Freedom ain’t free” t-shirt and upgrade me to first class.  I think I’m going to buy a plane ticket before gas prices go up.  Smooth sailing for me.

    Craig

  14. he should have shot the guy in the leg

    The general rules of shooting at people (as opposed as a sport).

    1) If you point a gun at a person you are making a statement “I am prepared to kill you”

    2) If you pull the trigger you make the statement “I am trying to kill you”

    3) Aim for the bottom of the sternum- the torso is the biggest part of the body, so a shot that goes 4-5 inches astray still hits something.

    3.1) Limbs are the most mobile, as well as the thinnist parts of the body, so you are more likely to miss.

    4) If you don’t mean it, don’t shoot.  If you mean it, hitting the torso will increase the chances you hit something major, putting the guy down.

    4.1) Down but not out means they can still shoot back or press the detonator.

  15. Last Hussar is right, police are taught not to draw their guns unless they are prepared to use lethal force; even for Federal Air Marshalls, who have a much tougher shooting qualification than most police, there’s no shooting to wound.

  16. That case of the retarded guy was really sad.  He was well-known in the area and even if he wasn’t, a roadblock seems a bit excessive for drive-away.  After all, they had his license number and could have gone to his house to arrest him.

    The cop on the plane carries a gun around everywhere else, presumably.  He probably needs a vacation, and some retraining?

  17. Well, since everyone (well, two taxi drivers I rode with who happened to be Muslims) knows that the Jews were behind 9/11, this is just tried-and-true racial profiling in action…

  18. Last: Those are pretty accurate from the standpoint of a police officer. Thanks for that.

    Actually I was quoting British Army training, but it’s noce to know that profeesionals in the US are also taught that guns are not some kind of fashion accessory, and that there are consequences to squeezing the trigger.

  19. Everyone’s misssing a point here. There is a good chance this guy on the plane wasn’t a cop at all. Read the article again. If not, or even if, where did he go and why wasn’t he detained and arrested for assaulting someone on the plane.
    Duh!

  20. Actually I was quoting British Army training, but it’s noce to know that profeesionals in the US are also taught that guns are not some kind of fashion accessory, and that there are consequences to squeezing the trigger.

    Reminds me of the Heinlein short novel where the main character is told by his sister to take a knife instead of a gun on his survival training course final exam (which takes place on another planet – a RANDOM other planet) – because a gun might make him too cocky for his own good.

    Also, this whole discussion reminds me of my new home (New Zealand). Here, most of the cops still do not carry handguns. Not even in their cars. Its a somewhat quaint, but also very remarkable rule.

    Though it sometimes leads to newspaper articles describing how two police officers cower behind their squad car, fearing for their lives and praying for the Armed Offenders Squad to arrive – while the drug dealer shoots at them with a shotgun…

    And on a final note: some people here are protesting the fact that the police have started carrying tasers. Crazy buckos. Would they PREFER them to carry guns?

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