Police begin probe into what led up to airport violence

Police begin probe into what led up to airport violence

KENNER, LA (WVUE) - Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said a machete-wielding man was shot by an officer and several people were injured in the chaos that followed Friday at Louis Armstrong International Airport.

The incident began at about 8 p.m.

According to Normand, a man identified as 62-year-old Richard White - who was not traveling - tried to get past a Southwest Airlines security checkpoint and was confronted by a TSA agent.

Following is the JPSO's account of the incident, sent as an emailed news release:

Sheriff Newell Normand reports, this evening, shortly before 8 PM, our officers responded to reports of gunfire at the Louis Armstrong International Airport.

First responding officers proceeded to Concourse B and located a male subject, identified as Richard White, B/M, 62, of 1618 Taylor Street in Kenner lying on the floor suffering from several gunshot wounds.

It was quickly determined that White walked into the security checkpoint, pulled out a can of wasp spray and began spraying several TSA Agents as well as several passengers being processed at the checkpoint.

Within moments, White pulled from his waistband a large machete and began wielding the weapon at the TSA Agents as well as nearby passengers. A male Agent blocked the machete with a piece of luggage as White proceeded to run through the magnetometer.

As White reached the end of the glass wall he made a u turn, while continuing chasing a female TSA Agent. JPSO Lt. Heather Slyve, a 7 1/2 year veteran of the JPSO, was the on-duty Law Enforcement officer assigned to that checkpoint. Lt. Slyve was alerted to the activity, observed White wielding the machete, and approached White with her weapon drawn. As White drew closer to Lt. Slyve, while continuing to swing the machete, Lt. Slyve fired three rounds striking White in the facial area, the chest and the leg. White was transported to University Hospital where he is currently undergoing surgery. At the same time, as Lt. Slyve fired, the TSA Agent who was running from White was struck in the arm by a round fired from Lt. Slyve. Her injury was not life-threatening.

At this point, we have only been able to determine that Richard White had a few minor arrests.

Additional details will be released as they become available if warranted.

Traveler Cameron Matthews reported hearing several shots and then seeing people running. She said she hid until the incident was over. Passenger Jeremy Didier reported seeing someone "jump past the security guards waving a machete and cutting people."

Several people running from the scene sustained non-life-threatening injuries from falls as they scrambled to get away. In all, four people were taken to East Jefferson General Hospital, one of them in serious condition. Six people were evaluated by EMS at the scene and declined further medical treatment.

White is currently hospitalized and undergoing surgery, Normand said. He said investigators have made contact with his family members.

White is a cab driver who had recently acquired a chauffeur's license. He had no known criminal history except for some traffic attachments.

Police cordoned off the area around a vehicle outside the airport that they believe belongs to White. Technicians and bomb-sniffing dogs went to work processing the vehicle out of an abundance of caution, Normand said.

Airport spokeswoman Michelle Wilcut sent the following via email: "There was an incident at the Concourse B checkpoint of Armstrong International Airport this evening. The location has been secured. The airport remains operational on concourses C and D. Southwest Airlines will operate out of concourse C. The airport access road is open at this time."

Mayor Mitch Landrieu released the following statement:

The situation at Louis Armstrong International Airport is under control and the airport is secure. There is no threat to the public at this time, and the airport is returning to normal operations. 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. Our thoughts are with our security officials injured in the line of duty, and we wish them a full and speedy recovery.

Passenger safety is the number one priority at Louis Armstrong International Airport, and we will continue to closely monitor the situation.

Some flights were delayed or canceled. Travelers were advised to check with their airlines for details.

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