Guyana-born doctor sues federal marshals who arrested him for looking at them
April 17, 2003
(Philadelphia Daily News) Alleging racial profiling and seeking $250,000 in damages, a physician yesterday sued two undercover federal sky marshals who arrested him after a flight to Philadelphia.
The sky marshals said they were concerned about the way Dr. Bob Rajcoomar watched them after they had seized an unruly passenger and put handcuffs on the man.
Rajcoomar, 55, of Lake Worth, Fla., is a former U.S. Army doctor who is a naturalized U.S. citizen of Indian descent from Guyana.
He complained that he was forced to spend four hours on Aug. 31 in a “foul-smelling” Philadelphia International Airport jail, after being removed in handcuffs from a Delta flight from Atlanta.
Also, his wallet and briefcase were searched without a warrant and without consent, and his wristwatch was broken.
By all accounts, Rajcoomar did nothing but watch the two marshals after they restrained a passenger who had been staring at overhead baggage and wouldn’t sit down when they told him to.
After restraining the passenger in a seat near the physician in the first-class section, one marshal kept a gun pointed down the centre of the airplane to keep passengers in their seats as the plane approached Philadelphia.
ACLU lawyers filed the lawsuit in federal court in Philadelphia.
The suit names as defendants the two sky marshals, Shawn McCullers and Sam Mumma, and their employer, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.
The TSA uses undercover sky marshals, who dress in civilian clothes, to prevent the hijacking of airlines by terrorists.
A TSA spokesman said earlier that Rajcoomar was taken into custody because the sky marshals thought he was observing them too closely.
“As a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army Reserves, and a physician in private practice for the last 20 years, this entire situation was enormously demoralizing, physically abusive and has taken a psychological toll,” attorney Stefan Presser and other ACLU lawyers asserted in the lawsuit.
The doctor now suffers from “difficulty sleeping at night and concentrating during the day,” the lawyers added.
It all happened because of his race and ethnicity, the ACLU lawyers contend.
Rajcoomar’s wife, Dorothy, who was on the plane, also is suing the TSA and the marshals for emotional distress.