A Memphis International Airport security video shows the June 30, 2015 confrontation between security personnel and Hannah Cohen, a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patient, that led Cohen to file a federal lawsuit.
MEMPHIS — A Memphis International Airport security video shows the confrontation between security personnel and Hannah Cohen, a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patient, that led Cohen to file a federal lawsuit.
The incident happened on June 30, 2015, when Cohen, 19, and her mother, Shirley, went through security at the Memphis airport. The women were traveling back to their Chattanooga home following treatment at the Memphis-based hospital.
The video, obtained by The Commercial Appeal, shows Cohen speaking with several security agents. When one of the agents tries to detain her, Cohen tries to punch the agent, who then slams her to the floor. She then struggles to break free as the agent tries to handcuff her.
According to the lawsuit, an alarm went off when Hannah went through the security screening. She was described as being 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.
“(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.
Transportation Security Administration and Memphis International Airport Police Department personnel were manning the checkpoint, according to the lawsuit filed several weeks ago.
Her mother tried repeatedly to tell personnel about Cohen’s brain tumor and disabilities, according to the lawsuit.
Her daughter, who had been under anesthesia the day before, is blind in her left eye and deaf in her left ear, Shirley Cohen said.
Two guards grabbed her daughter from both sides, the mother 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.”
Security personnel arrested Hannah Cohen on allegations she lashed out and hit an officer in the shoulder, chest and face.
She had refused to go through additional screening or leave the checkpoint, an airport police report states. The officer was not injured, according to the report. All charges against Cohen were later dropped, according to the lawsuit.
Shirley Cohen said her daughter had been going to St. Jude for 17 years, which included traveling through the airport many times “without incident ever.”
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. 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.”
Cohen and her mother are suing the airport police, TSA and the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority for damages that include medical expenses, personal injury, emotional injury, pain, suffering and embarrassment. They ask for a “reasonable sum not exceeding $100,000 and costs,” the lawsuit states.
They allege the officers and agents of the TSA and airport police discriminated against Cohen because of her disability and failed to provide reasonable accommodation for screening her. They allege the airport authority failed to properly manage the personnel.