Norfolk man who was thrown off diverted flight believes he was racially profiled

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Posted at 2:15 PM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 17:24:47-04

NORFOLK, Va. - On July 13, Norfolk resident Terrance Hines boarded a plane to Chicago with his sights set on L.A.

"I was going to California to purchase a French bulldog," said Hines.

Hines never came back with his puppy. Instead, his $620 round-trip flight turned into what he calls "pure humiliation."

"I had an aisle seat, and the person next to me was already seated, so I nodded off and went to sleep," he said. "I was then startled by an officer waking me up, saying, 'Excuse me, sir.'"

The next thing Hines knew was that he was in Denver. United Airlines Flight 2649 diverted, was forced to land, and he needed to get off the plane immediately.

"He said I was a disturbance and disrupted the flight, and I said, 'Are you sure you have the right person?'" Hines stated.

Hines was taken out on the jet bridge and met with more officers in Denver.

"I was continually asking the officer, 'How was I a disturbance?'" said Hines. "He said he didn't have more information."

Pictures of Hines exiting the plane holding a wad of cash then started circulating on Twitter. He told News 3 it was simply for the puppy.

"After I was asked to leave, I stood up, and I wanted to make sure my money was still there," he said.

After hours of waiting in Denver, he was told why he was an unruly passenger.

"A man finally came back and said I was leaning against the person next to me while I was asleep, and they banned me from the airline," said Hines.

Hines showed News 3 the email of United Airlines banning him from all future flights and saying that he could file a dispute.

"I feel I was racially profiled and targeted, and I was humiliated," he said. "I literally had to do a walk of shame, and even the other passengers looked puzzled."

Hines said he was wearing a blue hoodie, sunglasses and a mask on the flight. His attorney, Nicole Merenivitch, believes his appearance played a role in why he was kicked off.

"Everyone has a right to fly - tall or short; fat or thin; white, Black," she said. "The emotional trauma and harm done to him, I am not sure he will ever fly again."

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Hines and his attorney are now researching if they will file a civil lawsuit.

United Airlines confirmed to CBS in Los Angeles of Hines being removed and law enforcement meeting him at the gate, but would not confirm the nature of the disturbance.