A man went on a rampage with a machete and a can of wasp spray inside the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport before he was shot by a law enforcement officer Friday night, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said.
There were no life-threatening injuries to anyone other than the suspect who was shot. A TSA officer was struck in the arm by a bullet fired by law enforcement, he said. Law enforcement later recovered a Molotov cocktail from the car of the suspect, later identified as Richard White, 63.
Normand said White approached a security checkpoint just before 8 p.m. (9 p.m. ET) and was challenged by a TSA officer.
"The response was, he pulled a can of wasp spray and sprayed the officer in the face," Normand said.
White pulled a machete out of his pants and began swinging it, and sprayed a second TSA officer, Normand said. That officer grabbed a piece of luggage to defend himself and ran through the metal detector, and was able to call out to a sheriff’s deputy stationed at the airport.
The deputy fired three times, striking White in the face, chest and thigh, Normand said.
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Normand initially said the TSA officer was hit by the machete, but later said she suffered a wound to her arm from gunfire and no one was cut by the large knife.
Bystanders described a chaotic scene. "I was in the line and I heard people scuffling, and I saw this man waving the knife up in the air," a witness, Calen Bedford, told NBC News.
"They tried tackling him to the ground," Bedford said, "and the man with the knife and the TSA agents ran into a metal detector and pushed it over."
Bedford said he heard a gun go off just after White and the TSA agents ran out of sight. "All I remember was that when I heard that first gun shot that you hit the floor," he said.
Normand said White, who most recently was a taxi driver and who has no significant criminal history, was in surgery at a hospital Friday night. The TSA officer who was shot "is OK and is being treated," he said.
Normand said investigators don’t believe White is connected to anyone at the airport, and investigators are trying to determine if he had any mental health issues. "We do not know what the motivation is," Normand said.
The incident happened at Concourse B, which is typically a busy part of the airport, Normand said. Several travelers suffered minor injuries after they bumped into furniture while scrambling to get away.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu thanked authorities for their quick response. "TSA agents, law enforcement officers and airport officials all acted quickly to stop the perpetrator and secure the scene," he said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with our security officials injured in the line of duty, and we wish them a full and speedy recovery."
— Phil Helsel, Andrew Rudansky and Kerry Sanders