WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The grandmother of a 4-year-old girl who became hysterical during a security screening at a Kansas airport said Wednesday that the child was forced to undergo a pat-down after hugging her, with security agents yelling and calling the crying girl an uncooperative suspect.
The incident has been garnering increasing media and online attention since the child's mother, Michelle Brademeyer of Montana, detailed the ordeal in a public Facebook post last week. The Transportation Security Administration is defending its agents, despite new procedures aimed at reducing pat-downs of children.
The child's grandmother, Lori Croft, told The Associated Press that Brademeyer and her daughter, Isabella, initially passed through security at the Wichita airport without incident. The girl then ran over to briefly hug Croft, who was awaiting a pat-down after tripping the alarm, and that's when TSA agents insisted the girl undergo a physical pat-down.
Isabella had just learned about "stranger danger" at school, her grandmother said, adding that the girl was afraid and unsure about what was going on.
"She started to cry, saying 'No I don't want to,' and when we tried talking to her she ran," Croft said. "They yelled, 'We are going to shut down the airport if you don't grab her.'"
But she said the family's main concern was the lack of understanding from TSA agents that they were dealing with a 4-year-old child, not a terror suspect.
"There was no common sense and there was no compassion," Croft said. "That was our biggest fault with the whole thing — not that they are following security procedures, because I understand that they have to do that."
Brademeyer, of Missoula, Mont., wrote a public Facebook post last week about the April 15 incident, claiming TSA treated her daughter "no better than if she had been a terrorist." The posting was taken down Wednesday. Another post said the family had filed formal complaints with the TSA and the airport.
The TSA released a statement Tuesday saying it explained to the family why additional security procedures were necessary and that agents didn't suspect or suggest the child was carrying a firearm.
"TSA has reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper screening procedures in conducting a modified pat-down on the child," the agency said.
The statement noted that the agency recently implemented modified screening procedures for children age 12 and younger to further reduce the need for pat-downs of children, such as multiple passes through a metal detector and advanced imaging technology.