TSA detained a 12-year-old wheelchair-bound girl for nearly an hour at the DFW International Airport after they found explosive residue on her hands. TSA left the mortified girl in tears, but refused to let her mother get close enough to comfort her.
Shelbi Walser was traveling to Florida with her mother, Tammy Daniels, to receive treatment for a bone disorder that keeps her in a wheelchair. The 12-year-old girl is forced to make this trip every 4-6 months for treatment and never had any problems with the Transportation Security Administration before.
But while going through security at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport last week, TSA swabbed the girl’s hands and found that she tested positive for explosive residue. Walser was detained for nearly an hour in front of hundreds of travelers, while TSA called in a bomb specialist.
“There were people saying, ‘Really? You’re going to do this to her? Y’all have to take her somewhere private where she’s not out in the public and everyone can see her,’” the girl’s mother told Fox.
Daniels believes the agents lacked common sense in their treatment of this incident. Wheelchairs pick up dirt, residue and anything they roll through. The 12-year-old girl rolled her own wheelchair, making it possible for her to pick up residue from the wheels.
But TSA never tested the girl’s wheelchair to see if this might have been the case. The bomb specialist and the agents began talking on their cell phones, while other airport passengers watched in disbelief as the crying girl continued to be detained.
“Through all of this, no common sense ever kicked in. No one ever tested her wheelchair,” Daniels told CBS. “If it was all about safety, why didn’t they remove her from her wheelchair and start testing the seat?”
While the distraught girl was crying, TSA refused to let her mother get close enough to comfort her. Daniels says she never lost her temper and was respectful at all times, but a TSA agent made a call and referred to her as being “aggressive”.
The girl said she was afraid the TSA agents would take her away from her mother.
After the hour-long detainment TSA agents suddenly told Daniels and her daughter that they were free to leave, without offering any sort of explanation about the incident.
“It was a little much. I don’t know what to learn from this one. Somebody, they need to go back to the drawing board on this one,” Daniels said.
After reporters contacted TSA, the agency refused to discuss the incident and simply provided a general statement about TSA’s mission.
“[We] will address any alleged issued directly with the passenger and not through the news media,” TSA wrote in a statement to CBS News.
But this isn’t the first time the agency took their screening procedures too far with wheelchair-bound children. Earlier this year, a YouTube video was released showing a TSA agent giving a pat-down to a 3-year-old boy who was wearing a body cast and bound to a wheelchair, while letting the boy’s family continue through security. The boy was on his way to Disney World but was detained by TSA on the way. With a look of terror on his face, he was subjected to a screening that outraged many of the video’s viewers and caused it to go viral.
In 2011, two other wheelchair users were forced out of their wheelchairs and allegedly groped by agents at the Greater Rochester International Airport. That same year, a six-year-old girl also received an intense patdown at the New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport, prompting Rep. Jason Chaffetz to introduce legislation prohibiting patdown searches of minors without parental consent.
Despite constant complaints against TSA agents for their treatment of children and wheelchair-bound passengers, new incidents are constantly arising as passengers contact the news media about inappropriate treatment.