An Arizona man wrongfully accused and jailed for a crime he did not commit says American Airlines is to blame.
Michael Lowe spent 17 days in jail, lost thousands of dollars in business and was left with emotional distress after the ordeal, said attorney Scott Palmer.
Palmer filed a lawsuit claiming negligence against Fort Worth-based American Airlines on Monday in Tarrant County.
According to the lawsuit, Lowe had a layover at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on May 12, 2020. During the same time, there was a break-in at a duty-free kiosk in DFW's Terminal D.
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Court documents show DFW Airport police used surveillance video to determine the burglary suspect traveled on the same American Airlines flight Lowe was on.
DFW Airport police filed a search warrant requesting American Airlines provide passenger info for those onboard the flight. Instead, American Airlines provided only Lowe’s name and a warrant was issued for his arrest, according to the lawsuit.
For more than a year, Lowe lived unaware he was wanted for burglary charges.
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It wasn't until July 4, 2020, while Lowe was vacationing with friends in New Mexico, that he was questioned by an officer about a disturbance at an Independence Day celebration. Officers ran his license and informed Lowe he was being arrested for an outstanding burglary warrant out of Tarrant County, Texas.
"I just couldn’t believe this was happening. I was just flabbergasted. Then, they put me in handcuffs and in the back of a cop car and it got real," Lowe told NBC5.
Lowe spent the next 17 days inside the Quay County Detention Center in Tucumcari, New Mexico. The lawsuit claims for more than two weeks Lowe "lived in a constant state of fear of confrontation or abuse" inside the jail.
"It was the most horrible experience of my life," Lowe said. "The hardest part of being in there was not knowing when it was going to end."
According to the lawsuit, Lowe did not go before a magistrate for eight days and did not have an attorney to explain to him what was happening. It would be another nine days before he was released.
A Grand Canyon tour guide, Lowe said he lost thousands of dollars in business due to canceled client trips because he was in jail.
Palmer said he's never come across a case like this before and said American Airlines is to blame for only sharing Lowe's name with police.
"He thought this would get cleared up and he was wrong," said Palmer. "Seventeen days in jail, frustration, anxiety, disbelief, getting no answers from no one. It’s unimaginable this could happen in this country at this time, but it did. It happened to him."
According to court documents, the charges against Lowe were ultimately dismissed after he was able to contact a detective at DFW Airport who compared his mug shot to the suspect in the surveillance video. It's unclear if detectives ever pursued charges against anyone else.
A spokesperson for DFW Airport declined to comment and referred questions to American Airlines. DFW airport is not being sued over the incident.
A spokesperson for American Airlines released this statement to NBC5: “As required by law, American cooperates with and respond to court orders for information related to possible criminal activity, and that's what we did in this instance when we were presented with a search warrant."