This Is What Vigilantism Looks Like
Another airplane passenger false alarm:
Seth Stein is used to jetting around the world to create stylish holiday homes for wealthy clients. This means the hip architect is familiar with the irritations of heightened airline security post-9/11. But not even he could have imagined being mistaken for an Islamist terrorist and physically pinned to his seat while aboard an American Airlines flight -- especially as he has Jewish origins.
Turns out that one of the other passengers decided to take matters into his own hands.
In Mr Stein's case, he was pounced on as the crew and other travellers looked on. The drama unfolded less than an hour into the flight. As he settled down with a book and a ginger ale, the father-of-three was grabbed from behind and held in a head-lock.
"This guy just told me his name was Michael Wilk, that he was with the New York Police Department, that I'd been acting suspiciously and should stay calm. I could barely find my voice and couldn't believe it was happening," said Mr Stein.
"He went into my pocket and took out my passport and my iPod. All the other passengers were looking concerned." Eventually, cabin crew explained that the captain had run a security check on Mr Stein after being alerted by the policeman and that this had cleared him. The passenger had been asked to go back to his seat before he had restrained Mr Stein. When the plane arrived in New York, Mr Stein was met by apologetic police officers who offered to fast-track him out of the airport.
In a twist to the story, Mr Stein has since discovered that there is only one Michael Wilk on the NYPD's official register of officers, but the man retired 25 years ago. Officials have told the architect that his assailant may work for another law enforcement agency but have refused to say which one.
I've written about this kind of thing before.
EDITED TO ADD (10/3): Here's a man booted off a plane for speaking Tamil into his cellphone.
Posted on October 3, 2006 at 12:42 PM • 70 Comments