Black Social Worker Sues Airline That Suspected She Kidnapped White Toddler

An African-American social worker is suing American Airlines, accusing the carrier of violating her civil rights when the crew allegedly removed her from her flight and separated her from the white toddler she was accompanying after suspecting the child had been kidnapped last fall.

According to The Mercury News, Shannon Murphy, a social worker from Riverside County, California, claims she tried to show employees all of the proper paperwork, including a court order, the toddler’s birth certificate and her work ID but was still pulled off the plane and separated from the child for 40 minutes while the October 2019 flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Ontario International Airport outside of Los Angeles waited at the gate.

She filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court last month. The suit, which also accuses American of false imprisonment and negligence, seeks unspecified punitive and exemplary damages as well as compensation for past and future medical expenses as she has since been seeing a therapist and suffering from insomnia and nightmares.

Murphy was escorting the boy back from a court-mandated two-week visit with his father in Arkansas when a fellow passenger apparently told a flight attendant that they suspected the child was kidnapped.

“I was shaking,” Murphy told Business Insider. “I was scared, even though I had documentation for this child.”

Employees eventually checked the paperwork and allowed her and the child to board the delayed flight. “I wanted to just burst out in tears but I still had the baby with me so I had to keep my emotions in,” she added. “There was a man next to me and he kept saying, ‘You’re okay, you’re okay.'”

American confirmed that it is looking into the incident. “We are reviewing the lawsuit and the details of the flight. We take the safety and comfort of our customers very seriously and we’re committed to providing a positive experience for everyone who travels with us,” the airline said in a statement.

Last month, an African-American man from Arizona and four other passengers filed a joint racial discrimination lawsuit against American stemming from a May 31 incident on a flight from Los Angeles to Phoenix.

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