71 Year Old Deaf Passenger Has Arm Broken By Police During Austin Airport Layover

A 71 year old deaf Florida woman was connecting in Austin enroute to Seattle. She was a nervous flyer traveling alone for the first time in her life. Her hearing aid wasn’t working well, and wound up spending 3 days in jail and having her arm broken by police after she was unable to hear instructions from a gate agent – and asked twice to get on an earlier flight.

On September 13, 2022, Karen McGee had a three hour connection and seating herself at her connecting gate. She didn’t hear a gate change announcement for her flight. Her departure time passed, and she didn’t see her flight boarding, so she asked the Alaska Airlines gate agent what had happened. She missed her flight, and got rebooked on a later flight that evening.

However she thought there was another plane at the same gate that would be headed to Seattle (while Alaska and Delta operate the route 5 times daily between them, Delta flights are at the other end of the terminal and this is unlikely) and she asked the agent if she could get on that flight instead of having to wait until evening.

  • She was told no, but couldn’t properly hear the explanation.

  • So she asked another Alaska agent. That agent called the police.

Credit: Austin Police Bodycam Footage

When officers responded they informed her she was trespassing at the airport. But she couldn’t hear the instruction. She was “placed in a wheelchair and pushed to the front of the airport,” where was was handcuffed and taken into custody on trespassing charges.

She was “shoved against a wall” at the jail and stripped. When she questioned instructions from an officer she couldn’t hear, the officer “twisted her handcuffs with enough force to break her arm” and required surgery.

McGee says that she “lost time” and awoke in a jail cell with her clothes back on, but inside out. Her arm was aching and she held it close to her body. She was given Aleve but not taken to an emergency room. Upon leaving the jail after three days of detention, she collapsed. A police officer called an emergency medical technician, who helped her contact her husband and get her to a hotel for the night. She had surgery on her arm after making it home to Florida.

Austin airport

Even if she was animated, even if she was aggressive (though there’s no evidence of this, and the District Attorney refused to prosecute the trespassing case) at worst she behaved like every low cost carrier passenger from Florida ever, who just happened to be flying a legacy airline instead.

In Austin the police have quiet quit, and by most accounts don’t respond to all but the very serious calls in the face of protracted union contract negotiations with the city. Oddly they chose this incident to act. Karen McGee has yet to file a lawsuit.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Wow. If what is reported here is accurate, heads should roll and she should be looking at a huge settlement. She’s old. She’s **deaf**. Did no one realize this? Did they not care?

  2. God i hope she sues the city into the depths of hell. Meanwhile over at spirit…

  3. Why didnt this woman have someone to travel with her and make sure she got from gate to gate, flight to flight? Wheelchair and deaf should not be travelling alone without assistance.

    This type of thing will only get more common. A large number of millenials and Gen Z not having children will mean large number of elderly without help or support network when they reach retirement age and beyond.

  4. What is their in American policing culture that we have police breaking the arms of even the unarmed elderly engaged in no violence?

  5. First our elderly get sexually molested by the sickos at TSA then they get violently assaulted by law enforcement. And people continue to blindly comply with government in this country. “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

  6. Disgusting. I Hope she gets a huge settlement and that the cop who broke her arm is disciplined.

  7. Until cops and jailers have their wives, daughters, mothers, sons, husbands, and fathers pulled off the streets and treated in the exact same way by citizens, they will continue to be the abusive animals they are. No amount of lawsuit will change their behavior because they don’t pay it, tax payers do, and even if they did they can go bankrupt and keep their pensions. Following orders and policy is not an excuse when those orders and those policies are inhumane and abusive. They can say no but don’t.

    When we moved away from an eye for an eye justice this is the result.

    The issue is not this woman needing a helper when traveling. The issue is being arrested in the first place, not being immediately released, and the tortious conditions in jail.

  8. @Tim J: Doubt if a lot of the story went missing. Hope something like this never, ever happens to one of yours. Cops today don’t have to worry about being sued or even disciplined. Nothing more than modern day Wyatt Erps with a gun & a badge doing whatever they want with impunity. Of course if the woman had been black, the outcome would have been entirely different.

  9. Sounds like you’re blaming the victim, Wesley. Anyway, there is no evidence she was in a wheelchair. She was “placed” in one later.

    This type of traveler will get more common. This type of alleged police abuse should not.

  10. thank you wi-fi, bluetooth. Thank you Cisco, Apple, Nvidia, Qualcomm. Nothing like wi-fried and bluecooked brains on a police force. A little T-mobile and Verizon seasoning as well.

    It’s FREE airport wi-fi, don’t complain about the consequences.

  11. Horrible situation
    What does Alaska have to say about this?
    The airlines gone to #### since becoming a One World Partner
    And way off topic their new website is a total POS! Im seeing other passengers account information and you click on a flight to buy yet it takes you a different departure time and price

  12. Uhhh…Alaska flies from Austin to Florida???
    Don’t think so. Unless it’s an AA codeshare?

  13. As the father of a child with hearing loss, this breaks my heart. Remove any hearing loss though; how does a 70+ year old thin frail looking woman get arrested, stripped and jailed?

  14. If she is deaf, she needs her hands for ASL (if she knows the language). She is protected under the Disability Act. This is a common theme where the police put cuffs on the hands of deaf people and think they are ignoring commands. There needs to be a universal sign so the police know a person cannot hear. This story is atrocious.

  15. wow just wow
    Alaska, AUS, the Alamo – all the same – and yes I know the Alamo is in SAT

    Why is all the government dysfunctionality of the west coast cities taking over AUS, Gary?

    I think the lady is going to be a bit more financially secure in her retirement compliments of Alaska Airlines and the City of Austin.

    This one will be all over the news. You got the ball rolling.

  16. Something about this story feels far off. The way it’s told it’s just begging for us to be outraged. Nothing would excuse the broken arm and three days detention, but this story smells fishy.

  17. After being abused at Colorado Springs by police, I now use DIA only. I have made a mental note to avoid Austin like the plague.

  18. I’m not in favor of frivolous nuisance suits from people looking for a quick payday but this is definitely not that and she should absolutely sue. Sue the airline. Sue the police department. Make them suffer as she has.

  19. Amazing how outraged the comments on this site are, yet no one bothers to read the website’s disclaimer – “this site is for entertainment purposes only”. Interesting how quickly the brainless become brainwashed into being outraged to support someone else’s agenda.

  20. @Douglas Swalen

    Suing won’t make them suffer as she has. There is no justice in suing.

  21. @David O

    “…A 71 year old deaf Florida woman was connecting in Austin enroute to Florida. “

  22. I’m sorry to hear about this incident. It’s important to note that people with disabilities, including those who are deaf, should not be subjected to any kind of violence or mistreatment by law enforcement or other officials.

    If you or someone you know has been a victim of police violence or misconduct, it’s important to document and report the incident. You can contact the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, which investigates allegations of civil rights violations by law enforcement agencies, or contact a civil rights attorney for advice and representation.

    In addition, airports and airlines have disability service centers that can provide assistance and support to travelers with disabilities. If you or someone you know is traveling with a disability, it may be helpful to contact the airline in advance to arrange for any necessary accommodations.

  23. Great job TSA, AUSTON PD AND AIRLINE…..open your checkbooks…[redacted -gl]

  24. The Blue Line will obliterate and distort this incident, and lie.

    I hope the American Civil Liberties represents this lady.

  25. @glenn t:

    They elected Donald Trump and George Bush as President, that alone says they eroded years ago.

  26. Sounds like the coppers should look for another lone of work. I see termination in their futures.

  27. Airline unions might protect apathetic behavior from their members, but police unions protect criminal, abusive, sometimes even homocidal behavior from theirs.

  28. These facts would make for a compelling and highly remunerative lawsuit, EXCEPT that cruelty, violence, and even torture by police officers is essentially legal in the United States by virtue of a judicially created doctrine called Sovereign Immunity. Police – privileged officers of the state – can generally hurt you – a mere citizen – torture you, kill you, etc., and face absolutely no civil consequences as long as it was in the line of duty. But the USA is a “free country” because that’s what we have all been told to call it.

  29. You dont get three days in jail for shooting someone in Austin. Something seems odd here.

  30. An extremely thorough and in-depth investigation was conducted by the Austin Police Department.
    All the airport video was reviewed as well as the body cameras worn by the Austin Police officers involved in the incident. All officers, the suspect, airline employees involved as well as witnesses were interviewed. If the author of this article was privy to those this article would not have been written. As for what happened after the suspect was transferred to the Travis County Jail, that’s an entirely different situation. The author simply needs to file a FOIA and the Austin Police would have to release all the information. Obviously that will not occur because it would mean the truth would be exposed and would not fit the narrative they are pursuing.

  31. As a hearing impaired person who travels quite extensively and have found that almost every airline ignores the needs of deaf/hearing impaired customers. Gate speakers are of such low quality (this is likely partially or exclusively the airports fault) that any announcements made sound like the teacher from the peanuts. On the airplane none of the big three put the announcements through the headphones and cabin speakers are worse than the ones at the airport and seat back entertainment is useless as I have yet to find one that provides closed captioning.

    The only airline that does anything for deaf or profoundly hearing impaired passengers is Virgin Atlantic who have at least one cabin attendant who can sign. Unfortunately for me they sign BSL which is a completely different language from ASL.

  32. @Steve, I totally agree. Most gate agents speak too fast and assume everyone knows what they are saying is a repeat of instructions they have heard before.
    Delta does play the announcement thru the headphones and, in the recent safety video, had a ASL FA profiled.
    Seems the poor lady could of identified herself as hearing impaired with a card. AS should have done a better job of seeing to her similar to an UM, even charging would have been better than what she received.

  33. This isn’t surprising. As a 64 year old white, cowboy hat wearing male with a back problem, I had an extremely rude encounter with a black female TSA agent at Terminal A at DFW. After being selected for a random search I remarked “it must’ve been the hat” she went psycho and loudly shouted and berated me like Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise in a Few Good Men, trying to provoke me into an argument. I silently stood there and said nothing, which infuriated her further. Then she said I touched her, which was utter nonsense. Clearly she was getting off on a power trip over an older while male. Airport policing is out of control. I’ve experienced it first hand. Oh, I wear hearing aids and am hard of hearing.

  34. I’m almost 70 years old with 50% hearing loss without hearing aids. When I fly generally business or first class, I always indicate my hearing handicap when flying. In 2022, we flew to Mexico, Canada, Europe, and Oklahoma for a total of 21 flights on major carriers.
    The only person who recognized my disability was the chief flight attendant on WestJet from Calgary to Winnipeg; she was grand. Thank goodness my husband was with me.

  35. The more I deal with airlines and the TSA the more I refuse business travel. It was not always this bad. On a recent trip an associate had his flight cancelled then immediately told he had to leave the gate area or would be arrested. This was on a layover away from home during a busy travel time and there were no agents outside of the secure area due to it being very late. Upon hearing it would be 3 days before he could get another flight he rented a car and drove the 1000+ miles back home. He arrived home before he would have gotten on the next available flight.

    My company wants to send me on travel and I refuse. Zoom is just fine.

  36. @Peter. Exactly. TSA should be disbanded. It is an incompetent outfit populated by a majority of low class people exercising personal power trips over what they see as the ‘establishment.’ They hide behind a badge and aren’t beyond using the race card to lord over businesspeople trying to create jobs, build products and tend to customers, all alien concepts to most government workers.

  37. I just find it hard to believe that it did not occur to any of the unhelpful airport staff or the so-called public servant police, who all deal with the public all day everyday, that this woman was not cooperating because she was deaf. It is really sad that nobody even pointed to their ear and made a questioning expression to find out she was deaf and help her, not manhandle an elderly lady and lock her up. Even for people with normal hearing, the announcements are garbled and rushed. Nevermind non-English speakers and anyone hard of hearing, I can’t understand them either. Speaking clearly into the microphone is a skill anybody who makes announcements should be taught. It is a fundamental, elementary part of the job.

  38. I’m severely ĥearing impaired and I travel often. Airports are NOT friendly places for those that are hearing impaired. Airlines a completely inconsistent with timely and clearly articulated communications. They do have plenty of non-verbal ways to communicate such as ample digital signage. They just choose not to. Maybe a few giant settlements from lawsuits and some decline in corporate earnings will help incent them to use the tools they already have!!

  39. Alexander Graham Bell sought to integrate the deaf and hard of hearing with the hearing world. Bell encouraged speech therapy and lip reading over sign language. He outlined this in a 1898 paper detailing his belief that with resources and effort, the deaf could be taught to read lips and speak (oralism) thus enabling their integration within the wider society. Bell was criticized by members of the Deaf community for supporting ideas that could cause the closure of dozens of deaf schools, and what some consider eugenicist ideas.

  40. The agents and others suppress the deaf. If they have sidewalk ramps for wheelchairs, every airport should have an ASL interpreter 24/7.

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