Surveillance video released in wounded Marine TSA incident

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by Jared Dillingham

Bio | Email | Follow: @JaredDillingham

azfamily.com

Posted on March 20, 2013 at 6:02 PM

Updated Sunday, Mar 24 at 12:58 PM

PHOENIX -- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is fighting back against claims that agents mistreated a disabled Marine traveling through Sky Harbor International Airport.
 
The 22-year-old from California lost both legs in Afghanistan. He now wears prosthetic legs, but is wheelchair-bound.   
 
The retired Marine who escorted the group through the airport claims the wounded warrior was ordered to remove his prosthetic legs at security.  
 
Later, he was told to put them back on, and walk through the full-body scanner, a task he is physically unable to fulfill since it involves holding steady with his hands over his head.
 
His fellow Marines said he was humiliated.
 
"It's embarrassing to be told to take off your prosthetic leg. It's embarrassing to be told to stand. You want to stand. You just can't stand. I just think the TSA doesn't get it," Jim Phillips told 3TV.
 
Phillips sent a letter to California Congressman Duncan Hunter, who fired off a letter to the TSA, demanding an explanation.
 
Wednesday, TSA officials came out with a completely different story from the one told by the Marines.
 
"I was shocked to hear this happened at this airport, and I took it personally," said TSA Assistant Screening Director Jeff Perez.  
 
Perez is also a disabled veteran, and says 300 veterans work for TSA in Phoenix.
 
Perez showed video of the incident to a 3TV crew.    
 
He says no footage is available showing the area in which the Marine claims to have taken his prosthetic legs off.  
 
"We did our own fact finding and spoke to the officers who were there. Not one said he was asked to take his prosthetics off," Perez told 3TV.
 
The video did show the Marine in the full-body scanner, struggling to stand, and eventually giving up. TSA officials say it was his own choice to attempt it.
 
"He was given the option [of remaining in his wheelchair] and he opted to stand up because he wanted to expedite the process," Perez said.
 
Like any passenger unable or unwilling to go through the full-body scanner, Perez says the Marine was taken for secondary screening off to the side of the security zone.
 
His chair, legs, and hands were tested for explosive residue, which Perez says is standard for everyone.
 
The process took between eight and nine minutes to complete.
 
TSA officials remind traveling disabled veterans to plan ahead and use their Wounded Warrior program, which is supposed to expedite the security process.  
 
An expansion of this program, to include a 'pre-check' option, is coming soon.
 

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