Michelle Brademeyer says Transportation Security Administration officers at Wichita’s airport treated her 4-year-old daughter like a terrorist.
The TSA says its officers followed proper procedures, and the agency denies part of Brademeyer’s version of what happened around noon April 15 at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.
In an interview with The Eagle this week, Brademeyer, 27, said she is telling her story, which has drawn attention from overseas media after she wrote about it on Facebook, “because other kids shouldn’t be treated like this.”
In a detailed email and in the interview, Brademeyer said it happened like this: She, her 4-year-old daughter, Isabella, and her 6-year-old son, Oliver, were in the Wichita airport, headed back to Montana after her brother’s wedding. The children’s maternal grandmother was taking the same flight on her way back to California.
The children passed through security screening, Brademeyer said, but their grandmother set off the alarm. Officers asked the grandmother to sit to the side and wait for a pat-down.
That’s when Isabella saw her grandmother and “excitedly ran over to give her a hug, as children often do,” Brademeyer said. Their contact lasted a few seconds, she said.
A female officer started “yelling at my child and demanded she, too, must sit down and await a full body pat-down,” Brademeyer said. Her daughter responded by putting her hands over her face and crying.
“I was prevented from coming any closer, explaining the situation to her, or consoling her in any way. It was implied, several times, that my mother, in their brief two-second embrace, had passed a handgun to my daughter.”
The TSA wouldn’t respond to questions but provided a statement: “In this case the child had completed screening but had contact with another member of her family who had not completed the screening process. While it was explained to family members why additional security procedures were necessary in this instance, TSA officers did not suspect or suggest the child was carrying a firearm,”
The statement said the TSA “determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures in conducting a modified pat-down on the child.”
TSA said it has recently begun “modified screening procedures” of children 12 that will reduce the need for a physical pat-down for children. Those include permitting multiple passes through the metal detector and advanced imaging technology.
Brademeyer said her daughter “was obviously terrified, had no idea what was going on.”
She said the officers told the girl her she had to come to them, alone, and spread her arms and legs. When the girl ran in the opposite direction, she said, an officer told Brademeyer “they would shut down the entire airport, cancel all flights, if my daughter was not restrained.” She said the officers referred to her daughter as a “security threat.”
The situation began to improve, Brademyer said, when a manager intervened and said her daughter could be cleared through security while crying, and Brademeyer was allowed to hold her daughter while an officer checked the girl.