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Man with machete shot when he rushed New Orleans airport security checkpoint, sheriff says

Heather Nolan

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Marhc 21, 2015

A man wielding a machete was shot and seriously injured after he stormed a security checkpoint at Louis Armstrong International Airport Friday evening (March 20), Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said. 

A TSA officer and a traveler sustained non-life threatening injuries -- apparently from bullets fired at the man by a sheriff's deputy. 

The attacker was identified as Richard White, 63, of Kenner, Normand said. His last known address was the 1600 block of Taylor Street, about two miles away from the airport. Normand said White had only a few minor arrests on his record. 

"I know there have been a lot of questions as to whether or not we believe there's any national security threat or anything along those lines," Normand said. "At this point in time, we don't have any information that leads us to believe that's the case as it relates to this situation."

White walked down a TSA Pre-Check security line into Concourse B shortly before 8 p.m. and was challenged by an officer who was checking for his boarding pass, Normand said. He then pulled out a can of wasp spray and sprayed the officer, he said.

White ran past two other officers and then pulled a large machete from his waistband, Normand said. A TSA agent blocked the weapon using a piece of luggage as White ran through the magnetometer, he said.

The sheriff said White approached JPSO Lt. Heather Slyve, a deputy stationed at the checkpoint, swinging the machete. Slyve fired three rounds, striking White in the left chest area, the left facial area and the left thigh, Normand said.

White was taken to the hospital, where he was described by Normand as "unresponsive." He was in surgery late Friday. 

Normand said White was a taxi driver and recently received a chauffer's license. He has a minimal criminal history -- "some disturbing the peace charges and a couple of traffic attachments." 

Around 10:30 p.m., Normand said authorities located White's car at the upper end of the terminal. Deputies were processing it "as an abundance of caution."

A TSA officer who was fleeing from White was shot in her upper arm, Normand said. A traveler sustained a graze wound to his arm, also believed to have been from a bullet fired by the deputy, he said.

Some other travelers caught in the scramble for safety had cuts to their hands, feet and legs, Normand said.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued this statement late Friday:

"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." 

Concourse B serves Southwest Airlines.

Passenger describes machete attack at airport A Kansas City-bound family describes the scene at Louis Armstrong International Airport after a machete-wielding man was shot by a JPSO Deputy in Concourse B on Friday evening, March 20, 2015.

Nicole Danjean, who was traveling from New Orleans to Washington D.C. for a wedding, said she was at her gate when she heard three or four gunshots, and then people yelling "everybody get down!"

"Mostly everybody was getting down to the ground and trying to hide under chairs," she said.

The plane she was about to get on had just de-boarded and the door to the jetway was still open. People started running toward the plane, she said.

Melo York, who is from Mandeville, said as she was leaving through the security entrance, the TSA agent who had been shot in the arm was being loaded onto a stretcher, and police were blocking off the area with yellow crime scene tape.

Travelers clapped for the TSA agent as they passed her, Danjean and York said. The agent seemed to be in good spirits, they said. She smiled and waved to passengers as they walked by.

New Orleans airport shooting: raw video This is raw video of an injured New Orleans airport employee being transported after the shooting at the facility. Video by Sophie Didier.

Robert and Elizabeth Beauchamp, from Clinton, La., they were in line to board their plane to Phoenix at Gate B8 -- the furthest away from the security gate -- when they heard an alarm go off and saw people running. 

Some people screamed. Others ran. The Beauchamps said they stayed by their gate for about 10 minutes until airport security told everyone to evacuate the terminal.

"We had no clue what happened," Elizabeth Beauchamp said.

Jeremy Didier of Kansas City was returning from spring break in Florida with her 14-year-old daughter when she heard screaming. "I saw a man jumping over people" at the security line, she said.

Didier said she heard shots and "everyone hit the floor."

She said Concourse B was evacuated and travelers were directed to Concourse C and D for their flights. 


Airport shooting witness: "We heard 3 gunshots" Airport shooting witness Caden Merrick describes the chaotic scene in the New Orleans airport in the moments after the shooting of a man wielding a machete.