NEW ORLEANS — A man armed with a machete and wasp spray stormed through a security area at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Friday night before being shot, authorities said.
Richard White, 62, was taken to a local hospital, where he underwent surgery, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said.
The suspect in Friday night’s shooting at the New Orleans airport carried a bag into the airport that contained six Molotov cocktails, a grill lighter and a letter opener, said Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand.
The sheriff said the suspect, who was shot by a sheriff’s deputy, remains hospitalized. Police have not yet been able to talk to him, Normand said Saturday.
The incident started when White entered a security checkpoint for Concourse B and began spraying Transportation Security Administration agents and bystanders with a can of wasp spray, a sheriff’s office statement said.
White soon pulled out a machete from his waistband and began wielding it at agents and others in the area.
One of the agents blocked the machete with a piece of luggage as White chased him through a security checkpoint metal detector.
At that point, Lt. Heather Slyve of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office opened fire, shooting White in the chest, face and thigh.
One TSA agent was hit by a bullet fired by Slyve and was being treated for nonlife threatening injures, according to the TSA.
Several bystanders suffered minor injuries. Some ran into furniture, as they scrambled to get out of the way. One person was grazed in the arm by a bullet, Normand said.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu praised the response to the incident.
Officials acted quickly to secure @NO_Airport. Our thoughts are with those injured in line of duty & we wish them a full & speedy recovery.
— Mitch Landrieu (@MitchLandrieu) March 21, 2015
Two former New Orleans Saints players were at the airport in the midst of the chaos, WDSU reported. Robert Meachem and Lance Moore described the situation as “wild.”
Calen Bedford was among those diving for cover. “I fell to the ground along with everyone around me,” he told WDSU.
Why did it happen?
“We don’t know what the motivation is,” Normand said. “It is still early. We’re still running that out in order to try and determine anything about this particular individual.”
It wasn’t immediately clear why White was at the airport, although he was a taxi driver and had recently received his chauffeur license.
White has little criminal history, according to Normand. He said White had some disturbing the peace charges and some traffic tickets.
There’s nothing to indicate that the incident posed any sort of national security threat, Normand said.
While the scene Friday was chaotic and disruptive, things should be calmer Saturday, with the airport saying in a statement that “the situation is under control and the airport is secure.” Southwest Airlines flights temporarily operated out of Concourse C, though the airport later Saturday morning that “all concourses are open.”
Southwest Airlines will operate out of concourse C. The airport access road is open at this time.
— New Orleans Airport (@flyneworleans) March 21, 2015
“There is no threat to the public at this time,” the airport said, “and the airport is returning to normal operations.”
— Homeland Security (@DHSgov) March 21, 2015