By Amanda Holpuch in New York
A police officer shot a machete-wielding man at the New Orleans international airport on Friday night, after the man sprayed several airport security agents with wasp spray.
Police officials said Richard White, 63, walked into an airport security checkpoint, where he was confronted by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent who wanted to see his boarding pass. White then used the wasp spray on the agent before pulling a machete from his waistband and wielding it toward officers in Concourse B of the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
An agent blocked the machete with a piece of luggage, then White ran through the metal detector, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.
The on-duty police officer stationed at the checkpoint, sheriff’s office lieutenant Heather Slyve, drew her weapon at White, who continued to come toward her with the machete. She shot him three times, hitting his left chest area, left facial area and left thigh.
One TSA agent was struck by a bullet and a bystander was grazed by a bullet. Others acquired minor injuries like bruises and scratches in the melee, which occurred just before 8pm.
Travelers said some people ran and screamed in the airport after hearing the gunshots. Some people also tried to run back into a recently de-boarded plane.
Nicole Danjean, who was flying to Washington DC for a wedding, told the Times-Picayune she heard three or four gunshots. “Mostly everybody was getting down to the ground and trying to hide under chairs,” Danjean said.
White was transported to University Hospital and was “unresponsive,” said Sheriff Newell Normand on Friday night. Police have not determined White’s motivation for carrying out the attack, but detectives were interviewing witnesses on Friday night.
“I know there have been a lot of questions as to whether or not we believe there’s any national security threat or anything along those lines,” Normand said at a press conference on Friday night. “At this point in time, we don’t have any information that leads us to believe that’s the case as it relates to this situation.”
Normand said White’s last known residence was about two miles from the airport and that he worked as a taxi driver.
New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement on Friday that the airport would return to full operations, including the concourse where the incident occurred. “There is no threat to the public at this time,” Landrieu said.
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