Whisked away into a private room, Jamelyn Steenhoek knew her breasts were about to be checked.
But she wasn’t prepared for “that much groping.”
“I felt uncomfortable, I felt violated,” she told KCNC-TV in Denver.
This wasn’t a doctor’s exam gone wrong — it was a pat-down by a TSA agent at Denver International Airport. And Steenhoek, 39, filed a complaint with Denver police, saying the frisking amounted to sexual assault.
“To me it was as extensive as an exam from my physician — full touching and grabbing in the front,” she told KCNC.
The day after Christmas, Steenhoek of Highlands Ranch, Co. — about a half hour south of Denver — was taking her daughter, 13, to a Philadelphia-bound flight. Steenhoek wasn’t a passenger, just an escort for her daughter to the gate.
But a checkpoint alarm went off when Steenhoek went through. Was it the jewels sewn into the back of her jeans? She then submitted to a hand-swabbing…
…which the TSA indicated tested “positive for explosives,” she told KCNC.
While Steenhoek maintains the result probably was due to her pumping gas earlier that day, the TSA agent said a search was necessary.
“So I thought, ‘Okay.’”
After she was ushered into a small private room at the TSA checkpoint, her daughter watching a few feet away, Steenhoek was told to “spread” her arms and feet.
It was when Steenhoek said she attempted to accelerate the process that the female agent seemed to become agitated.
“At that point she did a pretty invasive search,” Steenhoek told KCNC. “They are just areas of the body I’m not comfortable being touched in. On the outside of my pants she cupped my crotch.”
Steenhoek said the agent repeatedly dug her fingers into Steenhoek’s armpits and also conducted the breast search, the part she said bothered her the most.
“I felt like you could tell if I was carrying a weapon in my bra pretty easily and it didn’t take that much groping,” she told KCNC.
And while Steenhoek may have assumed it was all over after the TSA agent’s search turned up nothing, she was wrong.
The agent repeated the entire procedure a second time, she said, adding that round two included “more touching and grabbing than the first time.”
Again, nothing was found, and eventually the TSA released Steenhoek, who managed to get her daughter on the flight on time.
While Steenhoek complained to the TSA about her treatment, she said she felt that wouldn’t produce any results.
So three days later she went to Denver police and filed a complaint against the unnamed female TSA agent who searched her, claiming she was “sexually assaulted.”
“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, an employee of a county social services department and full-time college student.
Steenhoek told KCNC she wants “consequences” and for the TSA to be held “accountable for what they do to people,” adding that a sexual-assault charge would be appropriate.
“I would never want another woman to go through this,” Steenhoek said.
Police confirmed the “open and active investigation,” 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.”
Carrie Harmon, a spokesperson for the TSA at Denver International Airport, declined a KCNC on-camera interview request but released a statement:
“TSA’s security officers are trained to perform each pat down in a professional manner to ensure that all individuals are screened to the same standards. Complaints about pat-down procedures are thoroughly investigated, and the agency takes appropriate action, if warranted. The agency cannot comment on an ongoing law enforcement investigation, but is confident the facts will support our officer’s adherence to proper pat-down procedures.”
Here’s a report from KCNC: