SAN JOSE, Calif. - A Southwest Airlines passenger said she and her 10-year-old biracial daughter were stopped by authorities on a report of possible human trafficking – except she wasn't and she said the incident reeks of bias.
Mary MacCarthy said a Southwest Airlines manager and two police officers flagged her down at Denver International Airport after flying from San Jose on Oct. 22.
"I have traveled all over the globe," said MacCarthy. "My daughter has also traveled all over the globe with me. We have never been accused of doing anything suspicious."
MacCarthy, who lives in Los Angeles, was with her biological daughter, Moira, who is African American and Caucasian. It was a last minute trip to Denver with a connecting flight through San Jose after MacCarthy’s brother’s sudden death.
When they touched down in Denver, they were questioned over what a flight attendant deemed as suspicious behavior.
In a police report obtained by MacCarthy, the flight attendant said the mother was the last to board, demanded to sit with her daughter, did not talk during the flight and did not allow the child to talk to the flight crew.
MacCarthy said that’s false.
"Somebody saw us," said MacCarthy. "They saw a white woman with a child of a different race and based on that decided to report us for a very serious alleged crime."
David Lane is a civil rights attorney whom MacCarthy retained.
"It’s the corporate training that is lacking here," said Lane. "Southwest needs to train their officers when they can and can’t call the police."
Southwest issued this statement: "We were disheartened to learn of this mother’s account when traveling with her daughter. We are conducting a review of the situation internally, and will be reaching out to the customer to address her concerns and offer our apologies."
The statement went on to say employees undergo robust training on human trafficking.
MacCarthy said she will not accept how they were treated.
"I want Southwest Airlines to be held accountable for an egregious case of racial profiling and racial harassment," said MacCarthy.
MacCarthy said she carries her daughter's birth certificate when she travels knowing she may be questioned. MacCarthy is seeking professional counseling for her daughter who she says was traumatized by the experience.
Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU. Email Azenith at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com.