DENVER (CBS4) – The family of a man arrested by Denver police when he refused to get off a plane claims the use of force was not justified. But police point out that two officers were injured when they were thrown down the stairs by the man.
At the time the incident occurred at Denver International Airport, Army Sgt. Thad Rule was returning home from Texas after just receiving treatment for post traumatic stress disorder. He had served in Iraq and Kosovo and been awarded the Purple Heart for injuries.
Rule boarded a United Express flight operated by SkyWest to Casper, Wyo. when the airline says police were called when he refused to turn off his phone and wouldn’t obey rules for sitting in exit rows. His sister, Rebecca Olmstead, is angry.
“He was beaten for no reason and he did have to defend himself,” Olmstead said.
Olmstead says her brother received a head wound requiring more than 30 stitches and his arms and back were bruised. Denver police say Rule pushed officers down some stairs.
“Two were injured because they wouldn’t stop hitting him. He even told them to stop hitting him, he was trying to get his bag,” Olmstead said.
“He was resisting arrest. Officers are allowed to use force to affect an arrest, reasonable force, and unfortunately in our line of work that’s something we have to do,” Lt. Matt Murray with Denver police said.
Removing passengers from aircraft for one reason or another is not all that uncommon. On a Seattle to Atlanta Delta flight six officers had to drag a person off the plane to applause.
The Denver to Casper flight this past Friday went further.
“I don’t think anyone reacts well when they are being hit in the head with a baton. So yes, he disarmed them and got them off the plane,” Olmstead said.
“I would tell them if they would like to complain we have an internal affairs bureau welcome to make that complaint,” Murray said.
So far that hasn’t happened.
Rule is now free on bond. He was arrested for investigation of assault, trespassing, resisting arrest and disturbing the peace. He is now back in Wyoming.
Rule has been working as an Army recruiter, but is presently on leave. The injured police officers were treated and released.