PUBLISHED: 20:21 EST, 18 April 2012 | UPDATED: 21:50 EST, 18 April 2012
An elderly, wheelchair-bound couple say they were robbed as well as humiliated during an extensive pat down by airport security that resulted in the theft of $300.
Air Force veteran Omer Petti, 95, and Madge Woodward, 85, say that during an extensive pat down by airport security $300 in cash went missing while being treated as terrorists prior to their flight from California’s San Diego International Airport last month.
‘Can you imagine an 85-year-old lady and 95-year-old retired Air Force Major in wheelchairs being treated like terrorists?’ Mr Petti asked the Detroit News while sitting in his home, shared with Ms Woodward in Woodward, Michigan.
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The couple flying home on March 29 arrived roughly an hour and a half prior to their flight’s departure, all expecting airport security’s metal detectors to go off with Ms Woodward’s replaced hip and Mr Petti’s two artificial knees.
The widowed couple, who met a few years prior at a bridge game before falling in love, both removed their belongings at security’s request into four bins.
But it was a security officer’s additional orders to Mr Petti to remove a pack of Kleenex tissues and $300 in bills from his pocket, placing them through the detector, that threw him for a leap.
‘I hesitated and said, “You really want me to put my bills in there?” Mr Petti recounted of his conversation with the officer.
The officer said yes, so Mr Petti did as he was told, placing the money in a fifth plastic bin to sail through the detector.
As was expected by the couple, alarms went off after they passed through themselves, sending an officer over to conduct a litmus test on Mr Petti’s clothing. Ms Woodward was physically searched as well.
‘When I was patted down,’ Ms Woodward said, ‘I’ve never before been touched in every part of my body before.’
Mr Petti, testing positive for nitrates – a connection to nitroglycerin pills he takes for his heart, he argued – was wheeled away to a private room for another pat down as the first officer dug through and emptied their carry-on bags.
Completing their search, the couple was released and handed four plastic bins containing their belongings.
Mr Petti inquired about the fifth that held his $300. The officer, according to Mr Petti, replied that he must be mistaken and suggested they check their shoes, pockets and other belongings once again.
‘When I told him we were going to miss our flight he asked me if I was objecting or refusing his request,’ Mr Petti said.
‘I said, “No,” I’d do anything I was asked. “I would just like to know where my $300 went.”
Racing the clock before their flight’s departure, the officer told Mr Petti he would go back and review surveillance video for the claimed fifth bin. He would then inform security at their destination of Detroit of his findings.
Both in wheelchairs, the couple were then rushed side-by-side to their gates by one lone attendant.
‘The wheelchair attendant literally ran the two of us by himself with both wheel chairs down to the gate,’ Mr Petti told the Detroit News, ‘endangering us and anybody who got in our way.’
Once arriving in Detroit, the couple were told the surveillance video was too blurry to clearly assess the situation and validity of their claims of a fifth bin.
‘You can bet if my father were a terrorist, those videos would not be too blurry,’ Mr Petti’s son Bill told Detroit News.
Mr Petti has since filed a police report with the San Diego Harbor Police and is working on a Tort Claim Package for the TSA as well.
‘Once we put the things in the boxes, the responsibility became theirs,’ Mr Petti told WXYZ.
He has also written a letter to San Diego’s airport federal security director, copying local and national politicians including President Barack Obama.
‘I think I was scammed,’ Mr Petti said. ‘I would like my money back, but money doesn’t pay for all the stress and humiliation.’
A spokesman for the TSA’s Office of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs, responding to the Detroit News for comment said: ‘They are looking into the case in San Diego. That’s all I have for you.’
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Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2131857/I-think-I-scammed-Elderly-couple-report-300-missing-following-airport-security-pat-down.html#ixzz1s2fPm0jh