KENNER, La. » A man sprayed TSA agents in the face with wasp killer then swung a machete at guards before being shot several times at a security checkpoint in the New Orleans international airport Friday.
Richard White, 62, walked up to the checkpoint, pulled out a can of the insecticide and began spraying both agents and passengers standing in line, said Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand. He then pulled a machete from the waistband of his pants and began swinging it around him. A TSA agent blocked the machete with a piece of luggage as White ran through a metal detector, Normand said.
After running through the detector, White was chasing a female TSA agent when Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Lt. Heather Slyve drew her weapon. White continued to swing the machete as she approached, so she fired three rounds, striking him in the face, chest and leg, Normand said. A TSA agent was also struck in the arm by a bullet, he said.
White was still alive and in surgery at a hospital, Normand said.
Some bystanders scrambling to get out of the way received minor cuts and bruises, the sheriff said.
Brett Leonard, whose flight from San Francisco landed in New Orleans shortly before the attack, says passengers in the baggage claim area had no indication of what happened until they walked outside after picking up their bags. He says dozens of police cars were parked outside the terminal with lights flashing, and a nearby police officer told him that someone had attacked a TSA officer moments before. Leonard said he was put into a cab with several strangers as police tried to evacuate the area.
"It was just very confusing – we didn’t know what was going on. No alarm, no announcement, just word of mouth," Leonard said.
Normand said investigators were trying to determine what White was doing at the airport. He said it did not appear that he was trying to get on a plane.
Authorities later found White’s car outside the terminal and were searching it, said police Col. John Fortunato.
Logan Tucker, 26, of Meridian, Mississippi, and Phillip Green, 33, of Houston, both deckhands on a tugboat headed to Houston for work, said they were about 25 yards from where the incident unfolded.
"I heard the gunshots," Tucker said.
"It was pandemonium after that," Green said. "I took cover. I didn’t want to become part of the story."
Green said they saw the machete and the suspect on the ground as they were leaving. The knife was about 14 inches long, he said.
He said he saw a TSA agent with an injury to her arm.
"It was not something you expect in an airport, and I’ve traveled a lot," Tucker said.