An elderly deaf woman who was caught up in a mix-up at a Texas airport in September spent three days waiting in a detention cell with a fractured arm.
On September 13, 71-year-old Florida resident Karen McGee had a three-hour stopover in Austin, Texas, en route to Seattle, Washington. McGee, who has significant hearing loss and has never traveled alone before, waited for boarding in a location near to the ticket window at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
McGee was unaware that the gate for her Seattle flight had changed. Although the statement was made over the airport’s intercom system, McGee was unable to hear it due to her poor hearing and broken hearing aids. She was put on a later evening trip to Seattle after explaining the issue to a gate employee about missing her departure.
McGee also relayed the scenario to her cousin, who did some investigating and found that the gate where McGee was presently sitting had an earlier flight to Seattle. McGee asked the gate agent to put her on the earlier flight, but she was turned down. She next went up to a second gate guard, who eventually dialed Austin police.
Officers said that McGee was trespassing when they got on the scene. According to The Austin Chronicle, McGee started hyperventilating at some point during her meeting with the police, and it’s possible that she kept doing so throughout her encounters with them. McGee alleged that she had trouble following what the cops were saying.
“He doesn’t get down on her level at all, which is the only way to get her to hear you. If they had any training about how hearing aids work, they would know that in a loud area, she won’t be able to distinguish just one voice. The person needs to get down on her level, speak slowly, and then she’ll be able to put it all together,” Rebecca Webber, McGee’s attorney, stated.
McGee thought she was being taken to a new gate for a trip to Seattle when officers put her in a wheelchair. Instead, they led her outdoors, where they reportedly stripped her naked, twisted her arm to handcuff her, and then arrested her for trespassing.
“All I did was stand up, and then they were all around me. And I don’t remember them saying anything to me or even to each other,” McGee stated.
At Travis County Prison, McGee awoke with her clothing on reverse and an excruciatingly hurting arm. She apparently received Aleve from officials but no additional medical care. Three days after being freed, she nearly immediately passed out. A jail staff member then assisted her in making contact with her husband and reserving a hotel room for the night.
Other people made arrangements for McGee to take a trip back to Florida, where she received surgery on her supposedly broken arm from the arrest. She’s thinking of filing a lawsuit right now against Austin.
Delia Garza, the Travis County Attorney, chose not to bring charges against McGee for trespassing at the airport.