Detroit TSA Harasses Man with Intellectual Disabilities

29-year old Drew Mandy was recently harassed by TSA agents at metro Detroit’s McNamera Terminal while on his way to board a plane to Disney. Mandy has intellectual disabilities and has limited cognitive ability. He and his parents were going through security when two TSA agents singled out Mandy for a more extensive check.

From FOX News Detroit‘s report about the incident:

“You have got to be kidding me. I honestly felt that those two agents did not know what they were doing,” [Dr. David] Mandy [Drew's father] told us.

Dr. Mandy claimed they asked Drew to place his feet on the yellow shoe line, something he didn’t understand. They proceeded to pat his pants down, questioning the padding which was his adult diapers. When the agents asked Drew to take his hand and rub the front and back of his pants so they could swab it for explosives, his dad stepped in and tried to explain that Drew was mentally challenged.

They said, ‘Please, sir, we know what we’re doing,’” Mandy said.

Dr. Mandy said that his son was carrying a six-inch plastic hammer and a ball, objects he carries with him for security — something I’m completely familiar with. My own teenage autistic son does like having his iPad with him, but he also likes to keep a pair of my mother’s shoes with him (his grandmother being one of his most favorite people).

TSA agents told Dr. Mandy that the plastic hammer — not exactly the sort of thing most 29-year-olds carry around — was a “weapon.”

“He took the hammer and he tapped the wall. ‘See, it’s hard. It could be used as a weapon,’” Mandy explained. “So, Drew’s also holding the ball, and I said, ‘Well, how about the ball?’ He (said), ‘Oh, he can keep that.”

Dr. Mandy was told he would need to have the toy shipped if he wanted to keep it, a process which caused them to almost miss their plane, so he pitched it.

Dr. Mandy was told he would need to have the toy shipped if he wanted to keep it, a process which caused them to almost miss their plane, so he pitched it.

“It just killed me to have to throw it away because he’s been carrying this like for 20 years,” Mandy said.




Boy, do I know how he must have felt.

“Disgusted,” Dr. Mandy wrote a letter to TSA and, happily, got a very apologetic response. TSA says that it will review its procedures in dealing with individuals with special needs and intellectual disabilities. Apparently there are 800 TSA agents at the Detroit airport and they will, it is claimed, be “retrained” in the wake of their harassment of Drew Mandy.

This is heartening, but his experience reminds me of why my husband and I are foregoing any airplane travel with our 14-year-old autistic son Charlie for the time being. We’ve been wary of air travel for the past few years and all the more so because Charlie is now adult-size and wouldn’t be comfortable at all cramped into econo-class. But going through security at the airport is another thing we’ve not wanted to put Charlie through. People think he is older than he is, he has some unusual behaviors — like standing and staring for some periods of time — and he’s likely to respond to verbal directions much slower, plus he might not be sure of what is being asked of him. Some have said that “surely security would understand Charlie is different” but the Mandys’ experience leaves me thinking, alas, no.

As for TSA and airport security. Drew Mandy was still able to board the plane with the plastic hammer: His mother had a duplicate in her backpack, which passed through the security checks just fine.

Photo by redjar.


Joy Jin
Joy Jin6 years ago

Outrageous. I can't even imagine what this guy had to go through.

Blacktiger P.
Blacktiger P6 years ago

I will NOT fly! It's bad enough that Greyhound checks carry-on luggage, all because a mentally disturbed passenger cut off the head of his seatmate, Gross!

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B6 years ago


Nancy V.

This elderly woman has experienced a lot of BS from so called security people at the Philadelphia Airport....because of a 'metal hip' and at one time wearing a 'boot' for a foot injury, these ignorant, over paid people act like they enjoy 'pushing people around'...their mentality is usually less than adequate and therefore they are the only ones who will apply for the job. I've been pushed, probed, felt up more times than I can say. AND, the ()*U&* smile and really get a charge out of pushing around the while old woman. I detest the Philly Airport .. and would rather drive than fly from there.

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal6 years ago

TSA is adding to the problem, not the solution at airports....

Ernie Miller
william Miller6 years ago

that is sad! what is even scareyer is terriest would use people like that if they did not have parents like his that protect him.

Scott H.
Scott H6 years ago

@ Mary L - I could understand the TSA's over-reaction in light of wanting to pass these tests, but the problem is they don't pass these tests. Ever. Their record is horrendous, and, as you said, they only ever react to the previous attack, never the next one.

Winefred M.
Winefred M6 years ago

Goes to show how stupid and dumb some agencies can be.
Sorry but when I read and saw the video,I couldn't help but laugh at the stupidity of TSA.
It's very sad what Drew and his parents had to endure.

Mary L.
Mary L6 years ago

In no way am I defending TSA agents, but... The problem here is that they are under constant scrutiny, tested regularly by "planted scammers." Fearing for their jobs, they choose to over-react. Recently at the MSP airport there were two back-to-back "tests" that fooled even the local police. The whole TSA program is nuts, always fighting the last incident. As previously noted: the terrorists have "won" the war of fear.

michael m.
Mike m6 years ago

I've seen the arguments that terrorists "win" when they force a nation or government to fundamentally alter it's behavior. What we are seeing now, from government to individuals, is the terrorists "winning." Bleah.