City, airport sued over an alleged 2001 assault

Wasilla man claims Juneau airport security tackled and kneed him

Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2003

A Wasilla man who claims he was assaulted and handcuffed by security staff at the Juneau Airport two years ago is seeking "in excess of $80,000" in a lawsuit filed in Juneau Superior Court this week.

John Priestly names the city of Juneau, the airport and Knightwatch Security in the suit, claiming all contributed to the "pain, suffering, embarrassment, humiliation and loss of liberty" he experienced Sept. 9, 2001.

Juneau City Manager Rod Swope and Airport Manager Allan Heese said they could not comment because they had not seen the suit. Both also said they were unaware of the incident the suit alleges.

A representative from Knightwatch Security, who declined to identify himself, said he couldn't say anything about a lawsuit he hadn't seen.

Priestly alleges he had gone through security screening at the airport when a friend was handcuffed after inadvertently picking up an item belonging to another passenger.

In the suit, which Priestly filed without an attorney, he claims he tried to explain his friend simply made a mistake. Priestly stepped out of the screening area with a security agent, who became very aggressive and told him to sit down, according to the lawsuit.

Priestly claims he then wanted to go back to spend time with his friends who would be leaving shortly and was assured he wasn't under arrest.

However, Priestly alleges that when he began to walk away, he "was tackled from behind, his shirt was ripped and he was thrown down head-first on the floor." He claims a security officer also shoved a knee in his back.

A Juneau police officer arrived and placed him under arrest for disorderly conduct, Priestly states, but was later informed no charges would be filed.

Priestly suit claims he "did nothing that would lead a reasonable person to believe that he should be assaulted, knocked down, injured, arrested and restrained."

He alleges the actions of the security staff amount to assault, battery, false arrest and false imprisonment.

Heese said Knightwatch Security provides general security, as first-responders to any problems at the airport. It was not conducting passenger screening two years ago, he added. That job was handled by Alaska Airlines.

The job of screening has since become a federal function due to airport security concerns arising after terrorist hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001 - two days after Priestly's alleged incident with Juneau security staff.

Tony Carroll can be reached at

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