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Blade-Wielding Attacker at New Orleans Airport Had Gas Bombs


Officers guard the entrance to concourse A and B at the New Orleans International Airport, March 20, 2015, in Kenner, La.

All parts of the New Orleans, Louisiana, airport were open Saturday morning, hours after a man attacked security agents there Friday evening with insecticide and a machete.

The man also was carrying a bag containing six Molotov cocktails and material "determined to have come from smoke bombs," the Associated Press reported.

A sheriff's office lieutenant shot the attacker, Richard White, 62, three times, hitting him in the face, chest and thigh, authorities said. White underwent surgery at an area hospital but died hours later. A female security officer whom he had been chasing through the airport also was hospitalized with a bullet wound in the arm.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said Saturday that while "no one at this point in time has any notion of what triggered this behavior," investigators have determined there is a “mental illness component."

Normand said it did not appear that White was scheduled to board any flight, and it was unclear why he went to the airport. Normand's staff said records showed White had been arrested a few times in the past for minor offenses.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued a statement saying that Transportation Security Administration agents, law enforcement officers and airport officials "all acted quickly to stop the perpetrator and secure the scene."

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said Saturday in a statement: “The senseless act of violence that occurred last night at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is a reminder of the variety of threats we face and the important work that the men and women of the Transportation Security Administration do every day to keep millions of passengers traveling through our airports safe.”

Johnson said, “Thankfully, our Transportation Security Officers were not severely injured and their actions appeared to have prevented the assailant from inflicting more harm.”

Witnesses described a chaotic scene at the airport. Passengers who had been waiting for security checks before boarding their flights were yelling and scrambling to take cover, as White, a taxi driver, attacked the TSA agents.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office said White walked up to a checkpoint and began spraying wasp repellent at security guards and passengers. Pulling a large machete from his waistband, he swung it at passengers and guards, one of whom deflected the blade with a piece of luggage.

Before he was shot, the man ran through the large gate that performs full-body scans on all travelers.

A few passengers suffered minor cuts in the chaos.