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Atlanta airport given "all-clear" after firearm discharged at security checkpoint, officials say

Holiday air travel expected to hit pandemic record
Holiday air travel expected to hit pandemic record 01:55

Atlanta's international airport is resuming normal operations after a firearm discharged on Saturday, appearing to spark chaos for some travelers and resulting in several flight delays.

The Transportation Security Administration said one of its officers was searching a passenger's bag at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport's main security checkpoint when the passenger, who had been told not to touch the bag, "lunged into the bag and grabbed a firearm, at which point it discharged."

The passenger then ran out of an airport exit, the TSA said. Police identified the suspect as 42-year-old Kenny Wells and issued a warrant for his arrest. 

Wells is wanted for carrying a concealed weapon at a commercial airport, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, discharging a firearm and reckless conduct, Atlanta Police Major Reginald Moorman said at a press conference. 

"This was not an active shooter event," the TSA said. "Local airport and TSA leadership made the decision to initiate a ground stop while Atlanta Police Department investigated the incident further."

Three people sought medical attention after the incident, according to police. None of the three were shot. One person "requested EMS from a fall that occurred in the atrium of the airport, with is not in the same area of the security check point," police said. Two others complained of shortness of breath.

Just before 3:30 p.m. ET, the airport tweeted it received the "all-clear" and "normal operations are beginning." Departing flights had been under gate holds and experiencing delays of under 15 minutes, while arriving flights experienced similar delays, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. 

Videos posted to Twitter appeared to show people lying on the ground at the airport — seemingly trying to take cover — with items of clothing and other personal items strewn across the floor. Other passengers appeared to have been evacuated, with videos showing people standing with their bags on the tarmac.

"There is not an active shooter," the airport tweeted just after the incident. "There was an accidental discharge at the Airport. There is no danger to passengers or employees."

This comes as the TSA is reporting record numbers of travelers ahead of Thanksgiving. On Friday, the agency said it screened more than 2.2 million travelers — the highest number since the start of the pandemic last year.

The TSA said Saturday that its officers have found more than 450 firearms at the airport's security checkpoints this year. Unloaded firearms can be carried in a locked, hard-sided case in checked baggage. They must be declared at the airline's check-in counter.

The investigation into Saturday's incident is ongoing.

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