Watch CBS News

Man attacks TSA officers with machete at New Orleans airport

Authorities said a man was shot after attacking TSA officers with a machete and insecticide Friday night at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
Machete-wielding man attacks TSA agents at New Orleans airport 01:27

KENNER, La. -- A terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport was evacuated Friday night after a man with a machete attacked TSA agents and was shot by a police officer, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office.

The TSA said in a statement the incident took place at approximately 9 p.m., Central time Friday night.

"...A female Supervisory Transportation Security Officer (STSO) at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport was assaulted in the public area outside of Checkpoint B," the statement said. "The officer was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries."

Sheriff Newell Normand told CBS affiliate WWL-TV in New Orleans the suspect was identified as 63-year-old Richard White.

A man lies restrained on a stretcher after allegedly attacking TSA agents at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Friday, March 21, 2015, in Kenner, Louisiana. Farah Stockman

Eyewitnesses told authorities White approached a TSA agent and sprayed that person in the face with a can of insecticide.

According to Normand, White got past the first agent and headed for the second TSA agent, again spraying wasp spray, before pulling out a machete and striking a third officer, who grabbed a piece of luggage for protection while calling for help from a Jefferson Parish sheriff's officer who was on duty nearby.

"The law enforcement officer proceeded down the exit line to come around, coming in very close contact to the individual with the machete, and that officer fired three times, hitting the perpetrator once in the left chest, the left facial area and the left thigh, " Normand said.

Early Saturday, Normand said White -- who was initially described as "unresponsive" -- was still alive and undergoing surgery. Authorities were trying to determine his motive, including any possible connections with the airport or people who were there.

A bystander suffered what Normand described as a graze wound to the arm and other people suffered minor injuries while trying to get away from the area. None of the TSA officers suffered life-threatening injuries.

Farah Stockman, a columnist and editorial writer for the Boston Globe, witnessed the incident.

"Lots of terrified (people)," Stockman tweeted. "Women crying. Someone apparently fell down and that created panic. Cops ran in, creating more panic."

Other witnesses described similar chaos to WWL-TV reporter Tania Dall.

"A guy comes running with a machete over his head running through security, and then he hops a bench and comes up toward my wife and I, and I start swinging my suitcase at him, and he runs the other way, right into a TSA agent," one witness said.

"We heard some screams. I turned around, I saw a man jumping over the security agents, and then we heard two shots fired," another witness told WWL-TV. "Everyone in the area, as you can image, started screaming. We all got down on the floor. The Southwest Airlines employees were absolutely phenomenal. They opened the emergency doors to the jetways that were nearby, and they hustled anybody in there."

The airport said operations for Southwest Airlines, which normally operates in Concourse B, were moved to other concourses. WWL-TV reported many flights, both departing and arriving, were delayed or canceled.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement late Friday at the situation was "under control" but would continue to be closely monitored.

"There is no threat to the public at this time, and the airport is returning to normal operations," Landrieu said. "We expect Concourse B -- where the incident occurred -- to fully reopen tomorrow. TSA agents, law enforcement officers and airport officials all acted quickly to stop the perpetrator and secure the scene."

Landrieu added, "Our thoughts are with our security officials injured in the line of duty, and we wish them a full and speedy recovery."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.