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.

Comments (40)
  1. Sandy says:

    Ok Mary and Jason as you seem to be the ones who are the experts on this and anyone else, even if their own personal safety was compromised, has no right to complain or have an opinion about this, can you answer a couple of things for me? If people with this disorder can’t control it, is society safe having them on public transit or for that matter just walking around free? If we don’t know when they are going to snap what can we do to protect the innocent bystanders when that happens? Is there any consideration in your thoughts to the 12 and 14 year old passengers that were witness to this. What about the elderly couple in the second row who had to move to the back for their safety? No one is arguing about his character before this incident, or about the fact that he has some issues that need to be dealt with. There are many people in prisons and hospitals with a multitude of justifiable reasons for their behavior but hopefully Mr. Rules family and friends will quit focusing on the reasons and start helping him get the help he needs to once again be the person they love. He deserves that.

    1. Mary Lee says:

      I completely understand both sides of this situation. I agree with a previous commenter who said something about how the stewardess put officers and others in harms way by crying wolf. Her ignorance and unfairness resulted in a traumatic event. You misunderstand about the triggers that set off such episodes. Thad has had amazing self-control and had just finished a month of therapy to help him manage his PTSD even better. I am saying that people are minimizng what it took to set off the episode. It’s not a small thing that triggers it. It takes a LOT. It’s has to be something that would have made him feel threatened. He was beaten. That violence was no small thing. Had he been mugged on the street, things would have gone the same way. The only differnce here was there was a plane full of witnesses to the attack. When Thad was asked if he would accept exit row responsibilities and he responded with “I’ve done two tours in Iraq, I think I can handle that.” he was not trying to be a “smartass” as ME claims. He was happy to let those around him know that he was capable of protecting them should something happen if the plane went down. In fact, he would have given his life for every single person on that plane to keep them safe. He’s not a mental case that hears voices telling him to do unspeakable things. However, I’m sure that is what it looked like to those who observed the conflict. I am simply trying to help people understand and be less judgemental. Those who saw the conflict got an up front view of something that is a frequent occurence overseas where the war takes place. War is an ugly thing. The soldiers who are willing to put their lives on the line for our freedoms have taken on a job that includes unimaginable violence and they are proud to do it. It does, however, take it’s toll on them. I know Vietnam vets who still have the same “fight or flight” response. It is drilled into soldiers for a reason. It is necessary to have that training to combat others in wartime. I am very sorry that you and others were traumatized, and I’m sure Thad is, too. Imagine what the civilians in the war zones see. You can take the soldier out of the war, but you can not flip a switch and take the war out of the soldier.

      1. Sandy says:

        What I am trying to get across to you and your family is that the people who witnessed this are judging his actions not his character. It wasn’t until I moved to the back that I was told that he was a vet with PTSD. By that time he was already being subdued and nothing you can say is going to convince me that it was not necessary to get him off the plane at that point. As I walk through this world I have no way of knowing the mental state of the people who are walking through it with me. That is where the laws of the land that he fought to protect come into effect. To protect the citizens. I think someone should mention that the police are also doing a duty for our country and putting themselves in harms way daily. Many of them see unspeakable things and may also suffer from this disorder also. There are bad cops as there bad soldiers. I see no evidence that this is the case with Mr. Rule or the police who removed him. I can understand and feel terrible about what has happened to him. When he came to the front and I saw his face, I saw a young man in trouble. He did not look evil or dangerous. I wish with all my heart it had turned out differently. I have nothing that I could testify in his defense but I do support him getting help and not jail time for this. As I said He deserves that.

    2. Mary Lee says:

      Oh, and P.S., should war ever break out on American soil (which most of us can’t even imagine is possible, but most definitely IS possible ie: 9/11) Thad Rule and soldiers like him (PTSD or not) will be the ones you will want at your side. A war of that magnitude will make the traumatic events you saw on the plane look like a walk in the park. U.S. citizens have been far too spoiled and, as a result, cannot even fathom such things. Our military personnel, however, are more than aware of it….and they are ready for it.

      1. Sandy says:

        As will the police and I think they deserve our support too.

  2. Jason says:

    I will straight out admit, I suffer from PTSD. I was diagnossed over three yearas ago from everything that happenes when I was overseas fighting for the rights in this country that we all hold dear. You know who was there for me the most, it was Staff Sergeant Thadd Rule. No matter if it was just needing someone to talk over the phone or if it was him inviting me down to the office so I wouldn’t be alone. He helped me through a lot of sh#$. So for you, and y’all know who you are, to attack him, you are not just attacking him, but me and the rest of our brother’s and sisters who are also suffering. As has already been said, there is no shut off valve for this. Everyone has a fight or flight response to situations, and with the training that is received and the stressful situations, this is no longer a flight, it is just fight. I’ve had IED’s go off around me, things blown up beside me, and lost a lot of close friends, some right there with me. So before you wanna judge and say things, think about what the soldier gives up for you to be able to sit there and judge us and run your mouth.

  3. ME says:

    Execessive force was not used, What started out as smart as remarks to the stewardess, ended up in what was deserved by the guy. I was either behind the guy or beside the guy in both of his seat choices and it was clear he was not going to leave peavefully,when the police are begging for help from passengers I don’t see where you can say excessive force was being used. They needed some good force to stop him as he is a trained military fiighting man and was determined not to go down with out a fiight. .
    Frankly in the end I am glad he got removed, what would have happened if he would have lost it in flight? How about if he would have grabbed one of the police officers guns.
    In the end he brought it all on himself. He could have chose to shut up and complain later at any time. The stewardess is part to blame for bringing it on but right or wrong he went to far with ithing.
    Plus I know people that know him and are not very impressed with him as a recurtier.

    1. Mary Lee says:

      I think I’ve heard about enough. When are people in this country going to wake up to the affects of war on the minds of our servicemen! PTSD is the term, but you have absolutely no clue what you are talking about. With all that Thad has seen and been through do you seriously think he can turn it on and off like a light switch? Think again. Sure they’re trained in discipline, but when you fight PTSD for as Iong as he has (even before he knew that’s what he had) there is no possible way you can keep it together forever. I am his wife’s mother. He has received two awards for top recruiting when recruiting up here in Montana. He hit his yearly recruiting quota last year by April. (That was just prior to a complete hip replacement at the age of 30) This was while the PTSD was escalating. The transfer away from Montana and his support that kept his head above water was the breaking point. Of course he’s not going to be a top notch recruiter after that. Everyone has a breaking point. Even you, smarty! Get off your high horse! You know squat about how he suffers. The thought of being taken off the plane and kept from his family was unfathomable to him at the time. He broke. Have some compassion. He didn’t bring it on himself. Fighting for your right to freedom and the right to spout off is what brought this on, and with little support from some of his fellow Army personnel. And then to have some skiddish stewardess with all the powers that come with her position bring him to his breaking point. Something like this was bound to happen, eventually. He’s made other flights without incident. In fact he made it down to Texas and half way back with no problems He’s made other flights, but is by no means a frequent flyer. Being a recruiter consists of mostly driving and lots of it. Just shut up, ‘cuz if your “people” are anything like you, we can do without your expert input!

  4. marlene E says:

    From WHAT I have read and heard, It seems that the stewardess has some mental issues herself! Just because you don’t like the looks of someone, you don’t need to go shooting your mouth off just for spite. My heart goes out to Thadd and his family as they are also victims of this airline. Hope the airline and the STEWARDESS get their just reward! GO THADD!!!!

  5. Sammy K says:

    It’s nice to hear from somebody who has worked with Mr. Rule and can vouch for his character on the military level. You would make a great character witness. He needs everyone’s support in this situation. Especially being up against both the police and the airline. I have a feeling the airline will have to be doing some apologizing for the behavior of ther flight attendant, among other things.

  6. Jason says:

    Thadd has been a very good friend to me since I got off of active duty in 2006. I did two tours, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. He was there for me when I was going through my problems with PTSD and other issues I was having. If you don’t know anything about the conditions you have no right to comment about it. From everything I have heard and read this started out a mole hill and was turned into a mountain. Thadd is one of the most stand up guys that I have meant and wouldn’t do anything unless he felt he was being threatened, as would have I. If someone’s were to treat me in that manner after everything, I would have defended myself too. I hope ALL things are looked at, not just the view of the stewardess and people who weren’t even close to what happened.

  7. Deidra says:

    I stood up with my cousin as she married this man. He is a decent human being and has seen more than anyone could ever imagine. He was happy to be headed home. Instead of arguing about what did or didn’t happen I think the time would be best spent in prayer. Prayer for him and his family.

  8. Sandy says:

    I cannot dispute that. I also heard some passengers saying that. But the fact is he was asked to leave and from that point on he caused the danger to himself and to every one else aboard. He may have had a grievance against the flight crew for being asked to leave. Had he complied many passengers may have backed him up on that grievance. The airlines owns the plane and has the right to ask him to leave just as you or I would have the right to ask someone to leave our property. The police had the duty to remove him at that point. He is the one that took things to the worst. If the flight attendant thought he was a risk and bowed to the wishes of the surrounding passengers and he caused a disturbance during flight causing injuries or worse, would these same people be ready back her up. Anyone who flies regularly knows that we are all inconvenienced because the airlines, TSA, Airports etc all choose to error on the side of caution. I hate it too. But lots of lives are at stake if someone is lax at just the wrong time. I can’t second guess someone who has that responsibility.

    1. Sammy K says:

      I just find it odd that he managed to make the two flights down to Texas for treatment, as well as from Texas to Denver, yet the last flight was a big problem. No disturbances whatsoever on the other flights. Makes me wonder about the flight attendant’s demeanor. Some do get quite power hungry. Not a lot of them, but some of them. If this flight attendant is unnecessarily responsible because she was having a bad day and made Mr. Rule pay for it, something should definitely be done to reprimand her for crying wolf and causing such utter chaos.

      1. Sandy says:

        Strangely it was just the opposite. Her instructions were all done in a southern drawl with a southern hospitality twist. We all thought she was quite entertaining. Up until the point when she came to the front and got on the phone, I think to the pilot, telling him that they needed to remove a passenger, all was peaches and cream. When the pilot came out and went back to talk to the passenger for several minutes, I thought that if the passenger was at all cooperative her decision may be reversed. Instead he came back up and made the statement. “That man has to get off this plane.” Apparently whatever the flight attendant saw the pilot also saw. I am not qualified to even guess what was motivating Mr. Rule’s actions but I do not think he acted rationally which may be indicative of his illness.

    2. Sammy K says:

      Sandy, I hope you will read the recent comment under the original article. It puts a different light on how the whole thing began. Sounds like that friendly flight attendant is lying.

      1. Sandy says:

        As I continue to say, I cannot make a judgment on that and do not deny the possibility that the flight attendant was in the wrong. I can only say what I saw. I have no agenda here and am far from a champion for the airlines. Also I do not discount Mr. Rule’s character or service to our country. I continue to wish the best for him. It was a very hard thing to see happen to any young man. I just wish that those who are criticizing the police would face the truth also. The lady in the other post acted like he walked to the front of the plane and was attacked by the officers. That simply is not true. He came to the front only after many people had asked him to leave the plane. Probably 20 minutes passed before he finally came to the front. He then began to defend his actions to the officers who told him they were not going to discuss it at that point and that he would have to leave the plane. They asked him if he had luggage on board. He said yes. They told him to get his luggage and leave the plane. He refused. One of the officers reached up to his shoulders and neck area and started to force him to go out the door. He began pushing and striking out at the officers who tried to tackle him to the ground to hand cuff him. You can read my earlier post for the rest of it. You were right this was the worst of it. But the fact is he should have left the plane and had no right to assault the officers who were doing their duty to get him off of it. Anyone who has knowledge and wishes to pursue a charge against the flight attendant may do so. Her actions may have been his motivation for breaking many laws and add some understanding to his irrational behavior but in the end he is still responsible for what he did.

    3. Sammy K says:

      I would think filing a false report that put officers in harms way would be in order. It would be interesting to find out why she reacted the way she did to his having served two tours in Iraq. It seems to have been a trigger for her. And turning in an INNOCENT combat soldier to police is just a stupid thing to do. The injustice alone would put him on the defensive. Like I said, he flew down there and half way back home with no problem. Her reaction to his comment and looks is the key factor here. Totally unnecessary. Lots of lives are at stake, which is why he was WILLING to take the exit row responsibility. Saving lives is what he does. His father stated that he earned a metal for saving his whole squad. Feeling like he’s being victimized and mistreated was just more than he could deal with at that point. Really VERY sorry the officers and Mr. Rule had to pay the price for her discrimination. And, yes, it was discrimination. Many vets that read Sandy Foertsch’s account will be in an uproar, as were those sitting by Mr. Rule.

      1. Sandy says:

        I don’t understand PTSD but his reactions were as to fight an enemy. I think the war is continuing for this guy. I hope his family stands by him and in this instance the court considers that he has some issues probably caused by what he saw and did in service to our country. My point is, addressing his problems needs to start by facing what he did and blaming others is not going to be productive. In life he will continue to encounter people who are in authority and like it or not may not be fair in dealing with him. There are proper and legal ways to handle that. Sometimes you just have to bite your tongue and live with it. If he doesn’t learn to do that his life will be unhappily be spent incarcerated in some sort of institution. If the flight attendant didn’t handle this correctly, I hope those that saw that do make sure she too is held responsible.

  9. Brett says:

    With our new knowledge about concussions, PTSD, head trauma, etc… Could a blow to the head be considered intent to be fatal and excessive force in comparison to stopping? 30 stitches is no small wound. I’ve been hit in the head with a baseball with much less damage to my head (no stitches) and was still stopped in my tracks. While I understand the need of an officer to protect his or herself, this situation seems really sticky and the wounds taken by the assailed suspect seem overblown for the situation. Especially that head wound… 30 stitches is just a huge wound…

    1. Sandy says:

      Although I am sure they may have been attempting to protect themselves from his attack when they attempted to escort him from the plane, they also were trying to subdue him to get him off a plane full of people. Do you have a better plan to do that? Should they have put their hands their sides let him push them to the ground along with the flight attendant, pilot and people in the front rows. He wasn’t leaving the plane so I guess because we were all behind him the officers should have let him have control, let us all be held hostage until a better idea came along. They had to do something to get him off the plane. They did. He was hurt. They were hurt. The flight attendant was hurt. But the rest of us came out of it with only the mental images to live with.

      1. Sammy K says:

        From what I ‘ve been hearing lately, the flight attendant made a mountain out of a mole hill. Even those around him told her he did nothing wrong and to leave him alone. He should not have even been asked to leave the plane if that’s the case. By the time you saw it, Sandy, things were already at their worst.

  10. Sandy says:

    I also feel very bad for this man. I have children his age and I hated seeing this happen. Some of the people in the rear saw the initial confrontation and didn’t feel it had to escalate to this situation. I can’t judge that. I just know that when you fly you have to put your life in the care of the pilot and flight crew. They determined he was a risk. At that point I also wanted him off the plane. His issues could be addressed off the plane. The flight attendant said that had he left when first requested they would in all probability discussed it with him and tried to find a later flight for him. After he refused it became a legal issue. After that it became a serious felony. Even now I hope his mental health is considered in the charges filed and possible sentence. This may have been a cry for help and I hope he gets it.

  11. Sandy says:

    When the door was opened to allow the security guards on the plane, we asked the flight attendants if we could use our phones to notify our family we were being delayed. She said that when the cabin door was opened it was allowed. This was before Mr Rule finally came to the front of the plane and after both the flight attendant and the pilot had asked him to leave the plane.There was a man in the front row who said he had taken some photos. He told the FBI agent who was the investigating officer that he had the photos. The FBI agent said that because the door had been closed before the disturbance it was a federal case and was under their jurisdiction

    1. Lizzy says:

      Thank you for the explanation. I guess I just don’t understand why something besides billy clubs couldn’t be used to subdue him. Tazer’s, pepper spray. I wasn’t there, but I just thought tazers were more popular with police departments. Sure would be less bloody and debilitating. Also less traumatic for onlookers I would suppose.

      1. TJ says:

        We (some of the passengers) were guessing they didn’t have Tazer’s. Also I spoke to a friend who is a police officer and he said they are using them less because sometimes they are fatal.

      2. Lizzy says:

        Yes, but when you crack a man’s head open to the skull and he has to have that many stitches, that would be fatal more often than a tazer. Head injuries cause large amounts of blood loss. I guess there’s just no perfect answer is there?

  12. Lizzy says:

    Yes, I would also like to see the video. It would clear up a lot of things. If it’s from a cell phone, why didn’t that person get kicked off the flight as well. Weren’t phones supposed to turned off. Why hasn’t the video been on the news?

  13. steph says:

    Please put that video up somewhere. That should definitely fill in some missing pieces.

  14. steph says:

    Funny that you two witnesses saw something so different than the other people on the flight. I wonder why you two think its all his fault when the others are outraged at his treatment? I hope this story is continued to be told because it seems like there are many missing pieces.

    1. TJ says:

      I don’t see comments from ALL the passengers here, this was a large flight and I only see a COUPLE of eye witness statements

  15. malachi says:

    that’s bull, i got that on video the police definitely didn’t use excessive force. he wasn’t getting off the plane

  16. TJ says:

    I was also on the flight a few seats behind Sandy and I fully agree with Sandy. I was concerned for our safety as passengers as he continued to resist authority. He was asked by at least 6 different people in authority to leave. I highly respect our military men and women, but aren’t they trained to follow commands and respect authority? Mr Rule did not respect authority from the stewardess, the pilot, other airline employees and finally the officers. The officers did give him the opportunity to get his bags and he refused. I saw this first hand and I do not think anyone that was not witness to this should pass judgement. I have been deeply disturbed over this situation and it will be in my mind for some time to come. I have also heard of government budget cuts that affect how our military are cared for. Why didn’t he have an escort with him? This is the least our government could do for our soldiers.

    1. Lizzy says:

      I agree with you on the escort. Makes you question how effective the treatment is that our government is providing for our war heroes. It seems like they always get shorted, as is shown by recent headlines with the government shut down scare. It’s just so sad that this could have been avoided. Too many factors at play I guess. After all he has done for our country and the way it has affected him, an incident like this raises a whole new set of questions.

  17. Sandy says:

    I was on the flight second row. He was asked to leave repeatedly and given several opportunities to do so. He came to the front and was asked by the security guards to leave. He was even given the opportunity to retrieve his luggage. He refused again. When the officers reached up to force him out the door, he went ballistic and fought them forcing them against the wall penning the flight attendant against the wall. Some of the men in the front came forward to keep the fight from moving into the cabin. The officers finally managed to get him to the ground and handcuff him. It took several men to do so as he was fighting them. I assume that is when the officer was pushed down the stairs. I moved to the back of the plane as I am an older lady who frankly was threatened by the incident. As far as excessive force. The man had to be removed. I don’t know what else could have been done. I would hate to think of what would have happened if he would have gone beserk during flight. He is obviously unbalanced and needs help. I am sorry he had to get hurt in order to get that help but he was given multiple opportunities to save himself and the rest of the passengers from having this awful experience.

  18. denvervet says:

    No one would defend a soldier more than I would. My question is this……should he have been escorted on the plane if he was a bit “unbalanced” due to PTSD? What was the reasoning for not wanting to move his seat? I just don’t get this story at all.

  19. Lizzy says:

    I have watched both videos several times. The police officer interviewed constantly has a smirk on his face and shifts in his seat. Either he is ADHD or he is hiding something. I noticed, also, that he did not respond to the families statement that Rule was hit while getting his bag. It does sound like the police were out of line. If he was getting his bag to go with them and they hit him that is NOT resisting arrest.

  20. jonny says:

    4 cops being fired for lying and beating people sounds like a pattern is here with the Denver Police.

  21. Lizzy says:

    Who wants to complain to the police internal affairs, especially when they’re covering up the way things really happened. Even the passengers back up Rule’s side of the story. This will all come out in court. By the way, the first story you had said he had TWO purple hearts. I find that pretty impressive!

    1. Lloyd Rule says:

      I am his father, and i thank you for the support. Lloyd Rule PS, He was also awarded for conspicuous valor, for saving his squad from an ambush. He also achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts. He is in no way a bad fellow.

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