Memphis, TN — In June, Hannah Cohen, a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patient, was attempting to travel back home to Chatanooga with her mother when she was told by TSA she needed additional screening. Only minutes later, Cohen, who is blind in one eye and deaf, would be in handcuffs on the ground with blood pouring from her head thanks to airport police and the TSA.
The incident occurred on June 30, as Cohen, 19, and her mother, Shirley, were traversing one of the many highly invasive, corrupt, ineffective, and often brutal TSA checkpoints at the Memphis airport. According to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Cohen against the TSA and the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, an alarm went off as Hannah went through the security screening.
Becuase of her disability, the alarm confused and disoriented Hannah immediately.
“(She) became disoriented and confused by the warning alarm and the actions of the personnel manning the security checkpoint to try to search her person because of her disability. The security personnel failed to recognize that she was confused because of her obvious disability and was unable to cooperate with the search,” the lawsuit said.
Shirley immediately attempted to explain to the TSA and airport police that her daughter is impaired from radiation treatment and the removal of a brain tumor. The aggressive cancer treatment left the teen with limited ability to talk, walk, stand, see and hear. However, they wanted nothing of it.
Instead of patiently listening to the mother or trying to calm down the situation, in only a matter of seconds, the officers escalated force. Two guards grabbed her daughter from both sides, Shirley said.
“It freaked her out,” she told The Commercial Appeal. “They didn’t listen to me at all. When they grabbed her, it scared her, and she was trying to get away from them. The next thing I know, one of them slammed her down on the floor and busted her head open. There was blood everywhere.”
Hannah Cohen was then arrested on allegations she lashed out and punched the officer in the face. However, as seen in the video below, Hannah was merely trying to pull her arms out of her aggressor’s hands and in the process may have hit his shoulder.
The only person injured during the exchange was the teenage cancer patient who is blind in one eye. None of the officers involved were hurt.
She had refused to go through additional screening or leave the checkpoint, an airport police report states. However, according to Hannah’s mother and the video, she was merely trying to get her special needs daughter, the proper treatment.
TSA spokesman Mark Howell and Jerry Brandon, chief of public safety of the Memphis International Airport Police Department, said they could not comment on pending litigation, according to USA Today. The Memphis International Airport Police Department is an independent agency, which is not part of the Memphis Police Department or Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
“At this point, it is alleged,” Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority president and CEO Scott Brockman said. “Anybody can file anything, and we don’t comment on active litigation. Clearly there are additional facts in this matter, and we won’t comment until we address the litigation.”
The lawsuit is seeking a “reasonable” sum of $100,000 for damages that include medical expenses, personal injury, emotional injury, pain, suffering and embarrassment.
Since her arrest, all charges against Hannah Cohen have been dropped.
As Jay Syrmopolous points out, 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.
Therein lies the true problem with the ever-growing security state in the United States – if you only have a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.
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