Actor Nathan Davis Jr. said that a false accusation from a United Airlines flight attendant made him fear that police would gun him down.
Davis filed a racial discrimination lawsuit last month against United Airlines. He’s also suing ExpressJet Airlines that operates as United Express on behalf of United — and ManaAir. He’s suing for $10 million in damages.
Davis spoke to Variety about the incident, which happened in December 2019 when he was flying from Houston, Texas, to Nashville, Tennessee. It began after the attendant said that he was playing music too loudly in his earbuds.
The “Snowfall” star said in the lawsuit that he complied with the attendant’s wishes and lowered his music, even though he noticed others were playing their music just as loud without anything being said to them.
“The last time, the third time, I had my music paused, just to see, and she did it again and she was mocking me,” Davis recalled.
He said that others who were nearby said they couldn’t hear his music and felt the attendant was picking on him.
The aircraft was still on the runway before taking off, and Davis started recording the incident. He said it was the “only way the truth was going to come out.”
It also says in the lawsuit the flight attendant contacted the captain, and Davis was taken off the plane by an airline operations supervisor. Davis started recording again and said the captain “attempted to forcefully” take away his cell phone.
After being off the plane, the actor was told to go back on to retrieve his items. He said someone yelled on the loudspeaker “he has a gun now,” an accusation that Davis said was never brought up before.
“I was extremely fearful. I honestly felt like there was nobody there that had my back,” he explained. “I was the only Black man on the plane. I just honestly felt like my life didn’t matter — I literally felt like this lady was going to take away my life, just by saying that I had a gun.”
He added, “The whole time I’m sitting there, thinking that there’s about to be all these cops that are about to point their guns at me, or they’re gonna see my phone and think it’s a gun and kill me. I’m thinking there could have been an air marshal on the plane that could have attacked me.”
Davis, who’s also a TikTok star with nearly 10 million followers, said it was important for him to speak about the incident publicly.
“I feel like that I needed to talk about the situation to kind of show people that no matter how much money or fame you have, as a Black man, we’re still gonna have a target on our backs,” he said. “And I don’t want another person to go through this situation who doesn’t have the platform that I have.”
Davis said that other airline staff apologized to him after he exited the plane, and one child recognized him from TikTok. There was also a flight attendant who recognized him from the 2017 film “Detroit.”
In that film, Davis played Aubrey Pollard Jr., who was shot and killed by police at the Algiers Motel during Detroit’s 1967 revolt.
“Being that character, I had to really go through months of living that situation, so when that situation on the plane happened, it brought me back to my character,” he said. “It brought me back to those images and those videos that I was watching to prepare for that situation.”
Davis made it to Nashville after taking another flight, where he was upgraded to first class. He said he now has nightmares and sees a therapist for paranoia.
“I just felt so alone,” he explained. “I’m just thinking to myself, ‘I’m gonna die. Nobody’s gonna know my story; all they’re going to know is there’s a Black kid in the hoodie and some sweats that just got gunned down by these cops because a flight attendant said he had a gun.’ “