Paris airport shooting: Man killed after trying to grab soldier's gun

Last Updated Mar 18, 2017 3:11 PM EDT

ORLY, France -- Soldiers at Paris’ busy Orly Airport shot and killed a man who wrestled one of their colleagues to the ground and tried to steal her rifle Saturday, officials said.

No one else was hurt, but thousands of travelers were evacuated and at least 15 flights were diverted to the city’s other airport, Charles de Gaulle.

Police did not immediately provide a motive for the attack. The Paris prosecutor’s office said its anti-terrorism division was handling the investigation and had taken the attacker’s father and brother into custody for questioning.

The attack further rattled France, which remains under a state of emergency after attacks over the past two years that have killed 235 people.

The shooting comes after a similar incident last month at the Louvre Museum in which an Egyptian man attacked soldiers guarding the site and was shot and wounded. It also comes just days before the first anniversary of attacks on the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people and wounded hundreds of others.

CBS News correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti reports there’s increased security in Paris for Prince William and his wife, Kate, who are visiting the city. The trip is William’s first official visit to the French capital since his mother, Princess Diana, died there in 1997.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the attacker assaulted three air force soldiers who were patrolling the airport. He said the soldier who was attacked managed to hold on to her rifle and the two soldiers she was with opened fire to protect her and the public.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said the attacker was 39 years old and was known to police for robbery and drug offenses. Prosecutors did not disclose the man’s name but said he was born in 1978 and had nine unspecified infractions on his criminal record.

The incident happened around 8:30 a.m. in a public area of the airport’s South Terminal, before passengers must show tickets or go through security.

Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux said the attacker had stolen a woman’s car earlier in the morning in a northern Paris suburb. Le Roux said police and intelligence services know who he is, though the Paris prosecutor’s office said he did not appear in a French government database of people considered potential threats to national security.

A French policeman secures the area at Paris’ Orly airport on March 18, 2017, following the shooting of a man by French security forces.

A French policeman secures the area at Paris’ Orly airport on March 18, 2017, following the shooting of a man by French security forces.

Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

In the earlier incident, the Paris police office said, a man fired birdshot at officers during a traffic stop, wounding one in the face. He then fled and stole the woman’s car after threatening her with a weapon. That car was later found near Orly.

Officials said about 3,000 people were evacuated from Orly, where passengers told of gunshots and panic. Traffic was jammed near the airport and people wheeled suitcases down the road.

The airport incident set off emergency security measures as authorities checked to see if the man was carrying explosives or if he had an accomplice, CBS News’ Elaine Cobbe reports from Paris. Passengers already onboard outbound planes were told to sit tight while the situation was sorted.

People on 13 flights that landed around the time the drama was unfolding had to stay on planes for several hours. Augustin de Romanet, president of the ADP airport authority, said they were allowed off around noon, once a search of the airport was complete.

In the airport, a witness identified only as Dominque said on BFM television: “The soldiers took aim at the man, who in turn pointed the gun he had seized at the two soldiers.”

French police forces secure Orly airport, south of Paris, March 18, 2017.

French police forces secure Orly airport, south of Paris, March 18, 2017.

AP Photo/Thibault Camus

Another man said on BFM that three soldiers were targeted, and they tried to calm the man who seized the weapon. Then the man said he heard two gunshots.

The soldier who was attacked is part of France’s Sentinelle operation to protect sensitive sites after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks. The operation involves 7,500 service members, half deployed in the Paris region and half in the provinces.

Saturday was at least the fourth time that Sentinelle service members have been targeted since the operation started. It was set up after the attack January 2015 attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and reinforced after the assaults that left 130 people dead in Paris in November of that year.

Orly is Paris’ second-biggest airport, behind Charles de Gaulle. It has both domestic and international flights, notably to destinations in Europe and Africa.