A law enforcement officer shot a 63-year-old man wielding a machete three times at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport late Friday, Jackson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand confirmed at a press conference.
Normand said Richard White – a taxi driver with little or no criminal history – approached a security checkpoint inside the airport just before 8 p.m. local time, and when he was challenged by a TSA agent, he pulled out a can of wasp spray and sprayed the agent in the face.
White allegedly sprayed another male TSA agent with wasp spray and then pulled out a machete and struck a female agent, and then raced through the checkpoint, Normand said. The agent who was sprayed grabbed a piece of luggage to defend himself against the machete.
A law enforcement officer stationed at the airport shot White three times, once in the chest, the face and the thigh, Normand said.
White was unresponsive when taken from the scene by an ambulance, Normand said, adding that one TSA agent was injured during the incident. She is “okay and being treated,” Normand added.
A stray bullet grazed one bystander, and others were injured while fleeing the incident, Normand said.
Law enforcement officials were unaware of a motive.
The airport was shut down for about 20 minutes as police and first responders swarmed the airport.
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“I was on the security line at Concourse B and I was about 10 people behind the guy when everything happened,” said witness Calen Bedford.
According to Bedford, a man with a machete or a large knife started making a commotion up at the front of the line.
“I was in the line and I heard people scuffling, and I saw this man waving the knife up in the air,” said Bedford. “The man was scuffling and fighting with the TSA agents when one of the TSA agents sprayed him with a big bottle of Mace, they sprayed it towards him and some of the people on line in front of me,” he added.
Bedford confirmed that he saw a TSA agent get cut with the knife. “They tried tackling him to the ground,” said Bedford, “and the man with the knife and the TSA agents ran into a metal detector and pushed it over.”
According to Bedford, the man then got up and ran past the security area and into the terminal, out of Bedford’s sight and into a nearby store inside the terminal.
While the suspect and pursuing TSA agents were in the store, Bedford heard a gunshot go off. “I kneeled there until the TSA guards came back towards the entrance and told everyone to move back,” he said.
Additional reporting by Andrew Rudansky.