Patrick Gott, of Pensacola, Fla., identified himself as a practicing Muslim and said he fired the gun Wednesday because he was angry that people had ridiculed his turban, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee said.
Gott, 43, is accused of firing once in the ticket lobby of Louis Armstrong International Airport, hitting an airline customer in the stomach and a Southwest Airlines worker in the hand. The customer was in critical but stable condition at a hospital after surgery Wednesday night.
Lee said Gott was carrying a Quran and invoked the name of Allah at the time of the shooting. He was wearing a floral-print shirt, shorts and black flip-flops.
Police say Gott told deputies he was in the terminal when people began making fun of the turban he was wearing. He told investigators that he left the terminal after the taunts, took a duffel bag with a shotgun out of his car, went back inside and fired, Lee said.
"Apparently he thought he heard some people make rude comments about his turban," said Bob Garner, spokesman for the sheriff's department.
Officials said the shooting did not appear to be related to terrorism and that Gott acted alone. Lee said Gott did not know either victim, and Garner added that Gott has no criminal record.
The blast sent passengers and airline workers running for cover. Workers ducked behind the ticket desk and some scrambled into the baggage area, said Mary Ann Rouanet, a US Airways agent.
"I heard one very loud boom. We were all shaken, scared," she said.
Gott told investigators he always has the duffel bag with him, Garner said. He said Gott was with his mother to drop off a passenger and may have taken the gun when he first left the car.
Witnesses of the shooting said the gun may have misfired or jammed.
Philip L. Fairbanks, a lawyer who represented Gott in a 1998 bankruptcy case, told The Times-Picayune that his client never mentioned an interest in Islam.
"Religious fanaticism is certainly nothing that I would have associated with him," Fairbanks said.
Gott worked as a carpenter in Beaufort, S.C., Fairbanks said. Gott declared bankruptcy and hired Fairbanks because he couldn't work or pay his bills following a serious injury, the lawyer said.
"He was not your typical Joe, straight-arrow type," Fairbanks said. "He was a bit eccentric. But he was always perfectly capable of dealing with me. He seemed to be pretty well in touch with reality."