Orlando man targeted in racist tirade at Nevada airport

Orlando businessman Hector Torres said he never expected a private phone call with his mother to spur a racially fueled tirade in the middle of an airport, but that’s exactly what he said he caught on camera when flying through Reno this month.

A video he uploaded to Youtube shows a man in a wheelchair, referred to only as Mike, lashing out at Torres in a profane tirade for speaking Spanish. Torres said travels by plane often multiple times per week for work and calls his mother in Puerto Rico before every flight.

“She speaks Spanish,” he said this week while waiting for a flight at Orlando International.

The man who was waiting for the same flight in Reno as Torres took issue with that call. Torres said he heard the man directing comments at him during the call, and when he hung up the man began directly confronting him cursing and using derogatory terms for Hispanics.

“Explain what I did to you one more time?” Torres asks from behind his phone in the video. The man responds, “Talking that stupid (expletive) Spanish around here when everybody else is (expletive) English speaking American.”

Torres said he began recording about 4 minutes into the conversation out of concern for what the man would do. About 8 minutes into the video, airport security arrives and pulls the man aside. Several other passengers in the waiting area backed up Torres’s story and when the camera stopped rolling the man was escorted out by security.

Torres declined to press charges.

According to a police report the man was denied to fly and escorted to the front of the airport to get a refund where he became angry and yelled again several times. At one point officers said he rolled his wheelchair into them and he was warned that any more physical contact with them would result in his arrest.

A spokesperson for United Airlines said in a statement Monday:
Following a verbal altercation between two customers, law enforcement officers were called to the gate. One customer was denied boarding due to concerns that he was not fit to travel. His ticket was refunded, as were the tickets of his traveling companions who had decided on their own not to depart without him. The flight departed at 8:28 p.m.
Torres said both the Reno Airport and United reached out to him to apologize, but that no apology is necessary and he does not blame either for the situation. He said he simply tried to keep his cool in the situation.

“I wasn’t going to give him [the man] what he wanted,” said Torres.