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Marlon Wayans says gate agent racially targeted him in luggage dispute

Marlon Wayans was cited for disturbing the peace at Denver's airport in a dispute in which he says was targeted because of his race.
Marlon Wayans says gate agent racially targeted him in luggage dispute
Posted at 7:57 PM, Oct 20, 2023

The City of Denver has dropped charges against actor and comedian Marlon Wayans that stemmed from a luggage dispute in June at Denver's airport, according to Wayans' attorneys.

Attorneys for Wayans in a Thursday court filing had asked for the dismissal of the case, saying Wayans was being unfairly prosecuted. Wayans, who is Black, and his representatives had alleged Wayans was targeted in the dispute because of his race.

In a statement to Scripps News Denver Friday, Wayans' attorneys said: "Even with atrocities happening in the world, there is never a time to be silent about racism in our community. Marlon Wayans is guilty of one thing — living while Black. The City Of Denver finally did what United Airlines has been asking — dismiss this case. They are to be applauded for doing so. Our community does not need one more innocent Black man wrongfully accused and wrongfully convicted. I hope this inspires everyone to be more aware of their own implicit and explicit bias." 

Wayans was cited for disturbing the peace, a municipal violation, in June, police said. 

According to the court filing, a United Airlines gate agent told him he could not get on a flight to Kansas City with three bags. The gate agent apparently tried to physically block Wayans from getting on the flight after he consolidated his luggage into two bags to conform with airline policy, the filing said. He boarded anyway and was later asked to get off the plane before it departed.

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While Wayans worked to rearrange his luggage, the gate agent kept allowing White passengers with three bags to board the flight, according to the court filing, which included still photos of surveillance video of White passengers with yellow arrows pointing to each of their bags. About 140 people boarded the flight, it said, many with three bags and oversized bags which violated the airline's policy.

Wayans' lawyers say the gate agent racially discriminated against him and that Denver prosecutors, by continuing to pursue charges against him, are perpetuating that discrimination and denying his right to equal protection under the law.

"The City of Denver's position is an affront to constitutional and social equity principles," Wayans' lawyers said.

City Attorney Kerry Tipper said her office does not comment on pending cases. United did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

In a statement issued by United in June to questions about what happened to Wayans, the airline said an unnamed customer "pushed past" an employee at the jet bridge and attempted to board the plane.

According to statements recorded on police body camera and cited in the filing, the gate agent told officers that Wayans "shoved" "pushed" or "elbowed" him as the comedian boarded the plane, which Wayans' lawyers say is a lie. They say Wayans may have brushed shoulders with the agent as he boarded.

The police officers who investigated were doubtful that any crime had been committed, according to the filing, but the gate agent asked that charges be pursued.

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