An Ohio woman said Tuesday she believes her Middle Eastern appearance is the cause for her being in police custody, which included a strip-search and interrogation, for at least four hours at Detroit's airport on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Shoshana Hebshi, 35, told The Associated Press she was one of three people removed in handcuffs from a Denver-to-Detroit Frontier Airlines flight after landing Sunday afternoon. Authorities say fighter jets escorted the plane after its crew reported that two people were spending a long time in a bathroom -- the two men sitting next to Hebshi in the 12th row.
Hebshi said she didn't notice how many times the men went to the bathroom.
I wasn't keeping track, she said. I really wasn't paying attention. I was minding my own business -- sleeping, reading, playing on my phone. Hebshi, a freelance writer, editor and stay-at-home mother of twin six-year-old boys, lives in a suburb of Toledo, Ohio.
The FBI has said the three didn't know each other. One man felt ill and got up to use the restroom and another man in the same row also left his seat to go to the bathroom.
As a former journalist, Hebshi has taken to her blog to write about the incident, saying she felt violated, humiliated and sure that I was being taken from the place simply because of my appearance.
Hebshi, who said she was just trying to make it home in time for dinner, also wrote several Twitter posts chronicling the incidents following the plane's landing. At one point, she wrote: A little concerned about this situation. Place moved away from terminal surrounded by cops. Crew is mum. Passengers can't get up.
Later she wrote: I see stairs coming our way ... yay! Her last post read: Majorly armed cops coming aboard.
It's then, she says, that the officers ordered her and the men, whom she described as Indian, to get up. After she was strip-searched and questioned and held in a cell, the authorities let her go.
Frontier Airlines did not get in touch with her or apologize. In a statement, the company said, The primary responsibility of our flight crews ... the pilots and flight attendants ... is the safety of all passengers on board the aircraft at all times.
FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said the three passengers were questioned -- for conducting suspicious activity -- but not arrested before federal authorities determined there was no reason to suspect or hold them.
We received a report of suspicious activity on that particular plane, Berchtold said. We did not arrest these passengers. ... We didn't direct anybody to arrest them.
Airport police are under the supervision of the Wayne County Airport Authority, which operates Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
In an email to the AP, agency spokesman Scott Wintner said airport police responded appropriately by following protocol and treating everyone involved with respect and dignity.
Hebshi said an official apologized and thanked her for understanding and cooperating. She also said she received another apology from an FBI agent Monday, before she wrote her blog post.
I can understand they were just doing their job, she told the AP. My beef is with these laws and regulations that are so hypersensitive. ... Even if you're an innocent bystander, you have no rights.