A Philadelphia man who was falsely jailed and charged with making a bomb threat at an airport is filing suit against the Transportation Security Agency.
The incident began in 2013 when Roger Vanderklok, a 57-year-old architect and marathon runner, was flagged by TSA during a security screening at the Philadelphia International Airport.
According to Philly.com, Vanderklok’s carry-on, which contained a heart-monitoring watch and several PowerBars, was deemed suspicious after going through the X-ray scanner.
For the next half-hour, TSA agents repeatedly searched Vanderklok’s belongings, demanding to know if he possessed any “organic matter.” Assuming organic matter to be fruits and vegetables exclusively, Vanderklok answered no, angering TSA agents who stated that PowerBars fell under the category.
Speaking with TSA supervisor Charles Kieser, Vanderklok asserted that the agents failed to properly define organic matter prior to his search. Kieser, unable to handle the slightest criticism, became irate with Vanderklok almost immediately.
Unimpressed with the TSA’s lack of professionalism, Vanderklok asked to file a complaint. But instead of grabbing the proper paperwork, Kieser chose to call the police.
Expecting to soon be on his way, Vanderklok was shocked when he was placed inside an airport holding cell without his cell phone.
After more than three hours in the cell, Vanderklok was taken to a nearby police precinct. It wasn’t until 2 a.m., almost 17 hours after the initial confrontation, that Vanderklok realized he was being charged with making “terrorist threats” and “threatening the placement of a bomb.”
Despite the gravity of the charges, Vanderklok’s wife was able to pay several thousand dollars in order to get him released on bail.
As appalling as Vanderklok’s situation was, it would only get worse during his trial three months later.
Unrepentant in his outright criminality, Kieser testified that Vanderklok had been “agitated” and was wildly waving his hands in the air while speaking with fellow TSA agents.
“I don’t let it go on on my checkpoint,” Kieser said.
Kieser continued by alleging that Vanderklok had put his fingers in his face multiple times before stating that he would “bring a bomb through here” and that the TSA would “never find it.”
Unfortunately for the TSA, airport surveillance video disproved every single word of Kieser’s account. In fact, Vanderklok never once raised his arms during his entire encounter.
“Not once does he raise his hands. Not once does he point a finger in Kieser’s face. If anyone is becoming agitated, the video shows, it is Kieser,” notes Philly.com’s Ronnie Polaneczky. “Neither Kieser nor his colleagues appear alarmed about the bomb threat Vanderklok has allegedly made. They chat and laugh with one another behind a desk, check their cellphones.”
Kieser’s claims were so outrageously false during the trial that all charges against Vanderklok were dropped in a matter of minutes.
“I was scared to death. I have never been arrested in my life, never had handcuffs put on,” Kieser said. “Throughout the night, I was in a dark place; no one knew where I was. I thought, ‘I could fall off the face of the earth right now, and no one would know it.'”
Vanderklok’s lawyer, Thomas Malone, noted the danger in police blindly accepting claims made by the TSA.
“The police at the airport never even questioned Mr. Vanderklok. They just detained him,” Malone said. “The detectives at the 18th [District] also never spoke with him. He was charged based on a single allegation by one TSA employee.”
Unsurprisingly, Kieser remains employed with the TSA despite his false claims and lying under oath.
Malone and Vanderklok are seeking $75,000 in damages against not only the TSA, but against the Department of Homeland Security and the Philadelphia Police Department as well.
The attempted criminal conspiracy against Vanderklok highlights not only the current state of the TSA, but of the federal government as well.