Controversial interaction at MSP airport over unattended bag goes viral

Viral bag incident at MSP Airport

Viral bag incident at MSP Airport

Minneapolis-St. Paul airport officials are reviewing an incident that went viral on social media that alleges racial profiling by an MSP airport officer.

A video caught the attention of over 1 million people on social media involving an MSP police officer and a traveler.

On June 1, Deshuan Manderson, the traveler in the video, was at MSP for a layover heading to California for his younger sister’s birthday party.

In Terminal 1, around 2 p.m., Manderson said he got up to throw something away and left his bag unattended near the gate area for a few seconds.

“I turned around and I saw a police officer with my bag,” he said.

The 21-year-old went to claim the bag from the officer. 

“He didn’t want to let me go,” Manderson said. “He was saying I stole it. He said, ‘It’s not yours’ and I stole it, and I said, ‘No, I did not.’”

In the video, which captures only two and a half minutes of the interaction, the officer talks into his radio, calling Manderson an “irate person.”

The officer asks for his ID and Manderson questions the request. After a threat of arrest, he hands it over.

Manderson said the officer kept him from boarding the plane until he could run his name in a database to check his record.

“I was just feeling anxious and nervous. I suppose scared,” Manderson said. “It made me feel like I wasn’t a human being at the time, like I was garbage to him. I was treated like a criminal.”

According to a Minneapolis-St. Paul airport police report, it was documented that an officer observed an unattended bag in a gate area, which is a security hazard. The report said the bag owner returned after the officer arrived and took control of the bag.

But in the video, it appears the officer is questioning if the person claiming the bag is trying to steal it, which is not in the report.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) said in a statement a nearby passenger reported they believed the bag belonged to a family that was already on the plane, so the officer was attempting to verify ownership.

“I feel like I saw racial profiling, and that’s exactly why I started recording,” Reagan Stafford-Tarin, a traveler who recorded the video, said. “The cop said, ‘I do not believe this is yours. I believe this belongs to someone else.’”

Stafford-Tarin is the woman seen near the end of the video, who stepped in and told the officer the bag does belong to Manderson. She started recording the video and later posted it to social media.

Her daughter kept recording while she spoke to the officer.

“I don’t think that I would have been asked for my ID had I said that was my bag. I think they would have handed it to me and that would have been it,” Stafford-Tarin said. “As white people, when we see something happening, we’ve got to step up and use our privilege.”

Manderson explained he’s still processing the situation and couldn’t bring himself to watch the video until a few days ago. He said he’s grateful the incident didn’t escalate any further.

“The lady came in and she just saved the day,” Manderson said. “I’m not sure if I can put this behind me. I just don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”

Jeff Lea, the manager of Strategic Communications with the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), said in a statement:

“The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) is aware of a social media video that alleges racial profiling by an MSP Airport Police officer. On June 1, the officer observed an unattended backpack in a gate area, which is a security hazard, and began attempting to establish ownership of the bag. A nearby passenger reported they believed the bag belonged to a family that had already boarded the plane.

The officer was attempting to verify ownership of the unattended bag through airline staff when a passenger approached him to claim the item. While waiting for airline staff to connect with the family on board, an additional bystander identified the bag as belonging to the individual claiming ownership.

The MAC takes all allegations of discrimination seriously. The MSP Airport Police Department is currently reviewing information related to this response, including additional video sources, to ensure the officer followed the department’s expectations and policies.

MSP Airport has a security ordinance that follows federal guidance prohibiting unattended luggage, as these items may potentially contain threats to the airport and travelers. MSP Airport Police regularly respond to cases of unattended luggage.”