MEMPHIS, TN – A special needs teenager returning home from a brain tumor treatment at St. Jude Hospital was left battered, bloodied and in jail after an encounter with TSA agents at a security checkpoint.
It’s a trip they’ve made for 17-years, according to the teen’s mother Shirley Cohen, but this one was unlike any they had experienced before – and hopefully never have to experience again.
Upon arriving at the security checkpoint with her mother, Hannah Cohen, 19, set off a metal detector and was identified for further screening by TSA agents.
“They wanted to do further scanning, she was reluctant, she didn’t understand what they were about to do,” said her mother, Shirley Cohen.
Shirley Cohen, upon realizing her daughter’s confusion at the situation, attempted to tell the TSA agents that her daughter is partially deaf, blind in one eye, paralyzed, and easily confused. However, police restrained her from doing so, as she was kept away from the TSA agents, according to WREG 3.
The frightened and confused disabled teen – not understanding what was transpiring due to her disabilities – attempted to flee. She was violently taken to the ground, causing the young woman, who had just finished a brain tumor treatment, to hit her head on the ground.
“She’s trying to get away from them, but in the next instant, one of them had her down on the ground and hit her head on the floor,” Shirley Cohen said. “There was blood everywhere.”
The young woman, who should have been celebrating the end of her treatment at St. Jude, was ultimately taken from Memphis International Airport in handcuffs. Terrified and bloodied, she was arrested and booked into jail for the night.
“Here we were with nowhere to go, not even a toothbrush, our bags had gone to Chattanooga,” said Shirley Cohen.
While all charges against Hanna Cohen were subsequently dismissed, the family has filed a lawsuit against the Memphis International Airport, Transportation Security Administration and the Memphis Airport Police.
The organizations have refused to comment due to pending litigation, but Sari Koshetz of the TSA released a statement that said, “Passengers can call ahead of time to learn more about the screening process for their particular needs or medical situation.”
Shirley Cohen can’t believe that her daughter had to needlessly go through such a traumatic experience after having already been through so much in her 19-years.
“She’s 19 but she’ll always be my baby. We’ve been through so much.”
This type of reckless behavior is indicative of a system that emphasizes protocol over common sense. Had anyone simply taken the time to listen to the girl’s mother as she attempted to inform the TSA agents of her daughter’s disabilities all of this could have been avoided.