UPDATE: Richard White, the 63-year-old man who is suspected of carrying out a strange machete attack against security at the New Orleans International Airport died hours after he was shot by police. Authorities say the attacker in the baffling attack may have been planning even greater destruction, as he was carrying a bag filled with Molotov cocktails. Investigators discovered the suspect’s bag had “six Mason jars with cloth wicks soaked in gasoline and that residue from smoke bombs also was found near White’s body,” reports the Associated Press. The motive for the attack remains a mystery, although Sheriff Newell Normand mentioned there was a “mental health component” but failed to elaborate.
ORIGINAL POST on March 21 at 2:08 p.m.: Chaos and confusion engulfed a security area in the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Friday night, when a man used wasp spray against an officer before taking out a machete and swinging it violently. It all began shortly before 8 p.m., when 62-year-old Richard White walked to a security line at the airport. When a TSA agent questioned him about his boarding pass, White sprayed the officer with wasp spray. “White soon pulled out a machete from his waistband and began wielding it at agents and others in the area,” reports CNN. “One of the agents blocked the machete with a piece of luggage as White chased him through a security checkpoint metal detector.”
That is when a police officer at the scene opened fire and hit White in the chest, face, and thigh. One TSA agent was hit by a bullet, but the injury was not life-threatening. The suspect was initially described as unresponsive, but after surgery his condition had been upgraded to “serious,” reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
The motive for the attack remains a mystery. White was a taxi driver who had recently received his chauffeur’s license. “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,” Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell 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.”
The attack once again draws attention to the question of whether TSA agents should carry guns, points out the Christian Science Monitor.