An 82-year-old woman was arrested and booked into the Sedgwick County Jail this week after she allegedly struck a Transportation Security Administration officer who tried to confiscate an oversized bottle of liquid from a carry-on bag she planned to take on a flight departing from Eisenhower National Airport.
The woman, who lives in Texas, was in Wichita with her elderly husband for a reunion. They were scheduled to return home early Wednesday, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said Thursday.
But airport police detained her after she got upset when a TSA officer manning a security checkpoint told her she couldn’t go through with the bottle because it exceeded the 3.4-ounce size limitation. The scuffle happened at 5:12 a.m. Wednesday.
The woman spent nearly two hours in the jail’s booking area and was photographed and fingerprinted before being freed, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Lt. Lin Dehning said.
Bennett said after learning of her arrest from the airline the couple was set to fly with, his office authorized her immediate release without bond.
“She was very shaken, embarrassed, and I think the simplest description would be overwhelmed … by the time we got to her,” Bennett said.
“She was clearly having a hard time handling the stress of the situation.”
Law enforcement and TSA reports say the woman became angry and verbally abusive after being told several times that the bottle would be permitted aboard the plane only in checked luggage. She walked around an X-ray screening belt into the TSA work area and hit the officer’s “right arm with a closed fist,” reports say.
The TSA officer found the bottle during a routine search of the bag after it triggered an alarm, TSA spokeswoman Carrie Harmon said Thursday in an e-mailed response to questions.
It contained a liquid hand product.
“When the screener told her that they were going to throw it away, she swiped at him, making physical contact,” Bennett said.
An airport police officer who saw the commotion “intervened and removed the passenger from the checkpoint,” Harmon said in her e-mail. Airport police authorized the woman’s arrest.
The woman was subsequently booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on suspicion of committing a misdemeanor battery at 8:13 a.m. Wednesday, Dehning said. She was released at 10:55 a.m.
The TSA officer, a 37-year-old man, had no visible injuries, according to reports. The elderly woman is 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds, according to jail records.
It was immediately unclear Thursday whether the city will charge the woman. No one from the city attorney’s office could be reached late Thursday.
“The city is the only prosecutorial authority with a possible case at this point,” Bennett said.
The woman could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Airport spokeswoman Valerie Wise referred questions about the case to the TSA.
Airport police did not return phone messages seeking information about the arrest.
Bennett said that after the airline called about the woman’s arrest, his staff picked her up from the jail, took her back to his office and “gave her something to eat (and) some coffee to warm her up.”
She was reunited with her husband when he arrived at the courthouse a short time later.
The airline drove the couple back to the airport, Bennett said, “and got them on the next flight back home.”