Atlanta airport gunfire ‘accidental discharge’, officials say

ATLANTA – Shots at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Saturday resulted from an “accidental discharge” of a gun, officials said, but it has prompted holidaymakers to flee and hide. take shelter because some thought there was an armed man inside one of the terminals.

The airport said on Twitter that there was no shooter and no danger to passengers or employees. At around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, there was an “accidental discharge” in the airport security check area, the airport said.

The authorities gave the green light and resumed normal operations around 3:30 p.m. airport said. In the devastation, three people were injured, but their injuries are not life threatening, the Transportation Security Administration said.

The panic occurred during one of the busiest times of the year for air travel, when millions of people are expected to fly on Thanksgiving. The TSA said Wednesday that air travel for the Thanksgiving season this year is expected to approach pre-pandemic levels.

The gun was unloaded by a passenger, the administration said. At a press conference on Saturday night, authorities identified the passenger as Kenny Wells, 42. Police said he was a criminal and that there were arrest warrants against him.

A TSA agent working at the airport’s main checkpoint began searching a bag when x-ray machines identified a “prohibited item,” the administration said. When the officer opened the bag for examination, Mr Wells rushed into the bag and grabbed a gun, at which point it discharged, officials said. He then fled by running through an airport exit.

“This was not an active shooting event, but management at the local airport and TSA made the decision to conduct a ground stop while the Atlanta Police Department investigated further. the incident, “the administration said in a statement.

In 2014, Georgia passed a law allowing the concealment of weapons at airports in areas “outside the screening checkpoint and which are normally open to unscreened passengers or airport visitors.”

TSA agents in Georgia have so far recovered more than 450 firearms from Atlanta airport security checkpoints this year.

“This incident underscores the importance of checking personal effects for dangerous items before leaving for the airport,” TSA said. “Firearms, especially loaded firearms, present an unnecessary risk at checkpoints, have no place in the passenger cabin of an airplane, and are a very costly mistake for passengers trying to board. aboard a flight with them. “

Passengers who bring firearms into airports could face a civil penalty.

The Federal Aviation Administration said all flights departing from the airport were grounded for 35 minutes.

Some passengers shared on social networks that they had to leave their departing flights for reconsideration. Videos also showed that those who had to get off planes had to stay on the tarmac while waiting for more information.

In times of confusion, the airport seemed descend into chaos. Images posted on social media showed an area of ​​the airport emptied, with lost suitcases left behind.

Outside the airport, people gathered in the departures area, block some traffic as passengers waited for answers.

Milaina Latsis, who lives in Flowery Branch, Georgia, about an hour from Atlanta, was heading to Minneapolis where she planned to spend Thanksgiving with her mother, two babies and their father. Before queuing at a security checkpoint she said they headed for the washroom “and thank goodness we did it”.

As they exited the toilet and made their way to security, she said they heard three gunshots.

“It took us a minute to register what was going on, but everyone at TSA was slipping away and we had a clear shot towards the exit, so we just ran,” she said. “At this point it’s just total panic.”

For a moment, his mother remained petrified, holding Ms. Latsis’ 2.5-month-old son. The father, Nathan Hancock, who was holding their 15-month-old daughter in his arms, shouted, “Let’s go! Run Run run! “

Christopher Hessen, who had traveled to the airport from Auburn, Alabama, was waiting for passengers to get off the plane he was supposed to take to Raleigh, NC, when he noticed the frenzy had bursts.

Mr Hessen rushed to the nearest emergency exit, but the door wouldn’t budge, so he rushed to the jet bridge and headed for the tarmac with dozens of others.

Mr Hessen, who is a flight instructor at Auburn University, said the airport seemed unprepared for the chaos. No one on the tarmac stopped the fleeing crowd from wandering. No airport official immediately looked into the development of the situation.

“This is what was of concern,” he said. “I thought the airport would be closed immediately.”

On the tarmac, Mr Hessen said: “There were planes passing a wingspan of us – so quite close – and nothing was ever stopped.”

After the airport announced a “green light,” Hessen said, the mood on the tarmac eased, but he and others were still stuck there. “The panic was real at first, people were crying and people were hiding, even after we got out,” he said.

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