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An Arizona man who says he spent 17 days in jail is suing American Airlines, alleging it misidentified him to police

By Steve Almasy, CNN

An Arizona man is suing American Airlines, claiming the airline’s negligence led to him spending 17 days in jail after he was misidentified to police investigating a burglary at a duty-free shop in Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in 2020, according to court documents.

The 26-page lawsuit, filed Monday in a Texas court, says Michael Lowe, a professional outdoorsman and career guide, was on the same flight as the suspect, whose activities were captured on video. Airport police got a search warrant for “any and all recorded travel data” for everyone on the flight, according to the court document.

The lawsuit alleges the airline “departed from its established procedures” and identified just one passenger — Lowe.

The airline on Wednesday issued a statement on the search warrant.

“As required by law, American cooperates with and responds 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,” the statement said.

The incident occurred May 12, 2020, at an airport duty-free shop. The man whom authorities identified as the suspect is shown on surveillance camera video boarding the same flight as Lowe, according to the lawsuit.

The legal claim alleges that based on misidentification from American Airlines, arrest warrants for Lowe were issued in Tarrant County, Texas.

More than a year later — on July 4, 2021 — Lowe was arrested while attending an event during his vacation in New Mexico when police who were looking for a suspect in a disturbance ran his name and found open warrants, according to the filing.

He was booked into jail in Quay County, New Mexico, where he spent eight days before seeing a magistrate and being told there was no bail because he was a fugitive, the lawsuit says. He ended up waiving extradition to Texas but was released another nine days later, according to the suit.

“I have never heard or seen this fact pattern in my 25 years as a lawyer. If it can happen to Michael it can happen to anyone. He was just another passenger on a flight. He did nothing wrong but American wrongfully singled him out as the suspect in a felony investigation, resulting in 17 days of incarceration for a crime he had no connection to at all,” one of Lowe’s attorneys, Scott Palmer, told CNN.

“American Airlines is responsible for what happened here. Without American’s disclosure of Michael’s name and information as the sole suspect, the detective never would have issued the warrants. It all starts with the disclosure of Michael’s name and his name only,” he added.

According to the lawsuit, after Lowe left jail and returned to Flagstaff he began his own investigation, including calling a detective with the airport police department who told him he had missed a court appearance in Texas and should surrender himself.

But then things changed.

“Sometime after Mr. Lowe’s release from jail, Detective Torres obtained Mr. Lowe’s mug shot from Quay County and compared it to the photos of the culprit; it was obvious that American Airlines had the wrong person, and that Mr. Lowe was not the person responsible for the burglary on May 12, 2020,” the document says.

Lowe’s attorneys contacted the detective and the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office and were assured the charges had been dismissed, according to the lawsuit.

CNN has reached out to Dallas Fort Worth airport police for comment.

“As a result of the incident described herein, Mr. Lowe has experienced mental anguish and emotional distress in the past and in reasonable probability, such mental anguish and emotional distress will continue in the future,” the lawsuit says, adding that he has also lost money and potential income.

The legal action names only American Airlines as a defendant. Lowe requests a jury trial and unspecified damages.

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CNN’s Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.

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