A man armed with a machete and a wasp spray apparently tried to storm a check point at a busy New Orleans airport.
63-year-old taxi driver Richard White was shot three times by law enforcement officers at Louis Armstrong International Airport . Six other people were treated for their injuries. The suspect is in a critical condition. The motive for the attack is unknown.
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A little before 8 p.m., Mr. White pulled a can of wasp spray out of a paper bag and began to spray one T.S.A. officer and then another, the sheriff said. Then with his other hand, he drew a machete from his pants and began swinging it wildly at the officers. One officer tried to defend himself with a piece of luggage as Mr. White chased him and others through the metal detector, Sheriff Normand said.
As they turned a corner back into the terminal, a deputy with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office who was stationed by the security gates drew her pistol and fired three shots at Mr. White, hitting him in the left side of his face, chest and thigh. One of the shots hit another T.S.A. officer who had been fleeing Mr. White, the sheriff said.
Six people were treated at the scene by emergency personnel and four were taken to a hospital, only one of them — the attacker — with serious wounds, according to Jeffrey Elder, the director of New Orleans emergency services.
Sheriff Normand said that Mr. White was undergoing surgery. The T.S.A. officer who was hit by a bullet was being treated for wounds that were not considered life-threatening.
A sheriff’s office spokesman said Mr. White lived in Kenner, the suburb where the airport is. His car was found parked outside the terminal and was checked by a bomb squad, he said. Law enforcement officers have been interviewing Mr. White’s family.
The incident was brief but rattled passengers departing and arriving at the main airport on the Gulf Coast on a busy Friday night.
“First somebody said, ‘Get down get down get down,’ then ‘bam bam bam,’ ” said Reginald McKamie, 62, mimicking the sound of rapid gunfire. He was on his way home to Houston to see a Stevie Wonder concert.
Farah Stockman, a columnist for The Boston Globe, emerged from the bathroom just after the police shot Mr. White and saw him lying face down in a pool of blood with “a very large knife lying near his head.”
“It was very chaotic,” she said in a phone interview. “People in the terminal were crying, people were cowering in bathroom stalls crying because they didn’t know what was going on.”
Everybody in Concourse B lay on the ground for several tense minutes after the attack, Mr. McKamie said, before people began to cautiously stand up and investigate what had happened. They soon dived for the floor again, though.
“Five minutes later someone yelled ‘get down’ again,” said Nicole Danjean, 46, who was headed to Washington, D.C. She said passengers ducked for cover wherever they could, some even rushing down nearby jet ways to hide.
But it was a false alarm, set off in the panicked airport by the sight of a woman fainting.
The authorities herded passengers out of the concourse through the security gates, and the flights were moved to other concourses. Several said they saw a shirtless man being treated for a wound to his shoulder blades and an older man with a wounded ankle.
Mr. White lay several feet away from passengers who were being escorted out of the concourse across a security area littered with abandoned luggage and scattered personal effects. Freddie Smith, 22, said the airport looked like as if it had been “ransacked.”
Late Friday, flights were being moved to other concourses and the airport was still operating.
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