A woman and her 10-year-old daughter were stopped by police at Denver International Airport last month after a flight attendant marked the two as suspects, with a woman saying it was racist.
Mary McCarthy, who is white, and her 10-year-old daughter, who is black, flew from San Jose, California, to Denver on October 22 to be with family after the sudden death of McCarthy’s older brother the night before. Can you When they arrived in Denver, they met a Southwest Airlines employee and two Denver police officers at the Jet Bridge.
At first, McCarthy thought the police were there to tell of another death in his family. The two officers began talking separately to McCarthy and her daughter, Moira. According to the Denver police report and McCarthy’s account, officers wanted to question McCarthy and her daughter because a Southwest Airlines employee had reported them as suspects and McCarthy as a potential human trafficker.
“The officer said, ‘We’re talking to you because you pilot was notified of suspicious behavior,'” McCarthy said. “And it immediately occurred to me what was going on. This is the type of situation that mixed-race families and families of color face all the time when they travel.”
McCarthy explained why they were traveling and that the girl, who cried about the incident, was actually his daughter. After McCarthy explained why she was traveling, officers and staff let her go.
McCarthy said he was not angry at how the officers and Southwest staff treated him on the Jet Bridge, but rather the Southwest employee on the plane reported him without any conversation or contact.
According to a copy of the police report obtained by The Denver, the flight attendant reporting McCarthy told police she was suspicious because both were the last to board the plane and because McCarthy asked other passengers to transfer so that her The daughter could sit next to him. Post via a record request. The attendant also reported that the pair did not speak during the flight.
McCarthy said he boarded the plane for the last time because he had been assigned the final boarding group and had no problem arranging for passengers on the plane. McCarthy said she and her daughter didn’t talk much during the flight because she was trying to catch up on lost sleep and her daughter was listening to an audiobook.
“The whole thing is based on what I believe to be a racist notion about a mixed-race family,” McCarthy said.
There have been several public complaints about mixed-race families being interrogated as suspects of human trafficking while flying into the United States.
A white Phoenix man on his way home from vacation with his family, including his adopted Chinese daughter, was stopped by police after a Southwest flight attendant called him a suspect. A black woman from Aurora, who was flying with her adopted white sister, was stopped by police in Dallas after a passenger on a Frontier Airlines flight informed airline staff of her as a potential smuggler.
Sen. John McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain, apologized in 2019 after falsely claiming she prevented a human trafficking offense when she reported a woman traveling with a child of a different ethnicity at Phoenix airport Said the pair “looked weird” and that “something didn’t click with me.” Phoenix police later confirmed that McCain had reported a woman, but said they investigated and found no evidence of a crime. Was.
McCarthy apologizes to Southwest for his employee’s racist perception of himself and his daughter.
The police report on the incident also angered McCarthy as officers wrote to McCarthy “not wanting to provide any information.” But McCarthy offered an explanation of why she was traveling and gave her identity to officers, she said. A recorded video of part of the conversation shows him recounting his journey.
Southwest’s media team declined to answer specific questions about the incident, including who reported McCarthy and her daughter, the basis of the man’s suspicions, and what Southwest would look to as evidence of trafficking. employees have been trained.
“Southwest regrets that this family reports anything less than a positive experience while traveling with us,” the company said in an emailed statement. “The customer’s report has been shared with Southwest’s customer relations team, and they will contact the customer directly.”
Southwest Airlines announced in 2019 that it would provide online training to all of its employees on how to identify human trafficking and what steps to take if trafficking is suspected. Public-facing personnel, such as pilots and flight attendants, participate in additional training.
McCarthy said the entire incident at the airport made an already difficult day for Moira even more difficult.
“She just kind of sticks when we talk about it,” McCarthy said.