Hot off the press from CBS Local Denver: TSA Pat-Down At DIA Leads To Sex Assault Investigation
Denver police have initiated a sexual assault investigation focused on Transportation Security Administration officers at a checkpoint at Denver International Airport. It comes after a Colorado woman filed a complaint saying the frisking she received amounted to a sexual assault.
“It’s an open and active investigation,” Denver police spokesperson Sonny Jackson said. “We take all complaints seriously and we are on this case as well. We have launched an investigation into it.”
The criminal probe stems from a complaint filed by Jamelyn Steenhoek, 39, who was patted down by TSA agents on Dec. 26 as she was escorting her 13-year-old daughter to a flight bound for Philadelphia. Steenhoek was not flying, just getting her daughter to the gate.
“I feel like someone who works for a powerful agency that we are afraid of used their power to violate me sexually — to put me in my place,” said Steenhoek, a working mother for a county social services department. Steenhoke is also a full time college student.
Although she had proper credentials to accompany her daughter to the airline gate, an alarm at the checkpoint sounded when she went through. Steenhoek believes the machine picked up the jewels that were sewn into the rear pockets of her jeans. She was asked to submit to having her hands swabbed, which she did.
“Then they told me I tested positive for explosives,” Steenhoek said during an interview with CBS4.
She explained to the agents that the positive hit from her hand swab was probably the result of her pumping gas into her car earlier in the day.
“She said, ‘We’ll have to do a search.’ So I thought, ‘Okay.’ “
Steenhoek said she was just focused on completing the search and getting to the gate with her daughter with enough time to get her teenager something to eat. She said she was ushered into a small private room at the TSA checkpoint with her daughter watching from a few feet away.
“They told me to spread my arms and spread my feet.”
She said the female TSA agent seemed to get agitated when Steenhoek tried to hurry the process along so she could get her daughter to her plane.
“At that point she did a pretty invasive search. They are just areas of the body I’m not comfortable being touched in. On the outside of my pants she cupped my crotch. I was uncomfortable with that.”
Steenhoek said the agent repeatedly dug her fingers into Steenhoek’s armpits.
“The part of the search that bothered most was the breast search. You could tell it shouldn’t take that much groping. To me it was as extensive as an exam from my physician — full touching and grabbing in the front. I felt uncomfortable, I felt violated.”
She said when the search turned up nothing, the agent repeated it a second time.
“So it didn’t make any sense. The whole search was done over and more touching and grabbing than the first time.”