A passenger awaiting a bag search at Atlanta Airport’s main security checkpoint reached into the bag and grabbed a firearm, which went off, causing chaos among travelers and causing a temporary FAA land stop on planes Saturday afternoon, officials said. Then he fled.
The man, who was later identified as a convicted felon, ran with the gun from the checkpoint and fled out of an airport exit, the Transportation Security Administration said. Authorities said it was not an active shooting incident and described the release as unintentional.
Police later said they had issued an arrest warrant for the passenger, the 42-year-old convicted felon Kenny Wells.
Airport Police Chief, May. Reginald Moorman, said Wells was wanted on charges including carrying a concealed weapon at a commercial airport, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, firing a firearm and reckless conduct.
“We are actively pursuing this person as we speak,” Moorman said at a news briefing Saturday night with the TSA and airport officials.
The spill created outrage on social media as troubled travelers posted videos on Twitter and other online sites showing and describing moments of chaos and confusion at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the country’s busiest. A commuter train connection to the airport was also briefly halted as a safety precaution.
Authorities said three people suffered minor injuries, including one who fell in the airport’s atrium area away from the checkpoint, and two complained of shortness of breath.
No one was shot, a TSA chief added.
“We were lucky that when the firearm went off, no one was seriously injured,” Robert Spinden, the TSA’s director of federal security for Georgia, said at the airport briefing. Officials did not immediately reveal what type of weapon was involved.
Social media users reported that there were long queues for safety and lost flights for some. The incident came ahead of the high Thanksgiving travel season as people are still dealing with the frustrations and worries of traveling safely during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the FAA ordered a temporary land stop, airport officials said operations never stopped and the airport did not close. They said the airport returned to normal operation in under two hours.
The TSA statement said it all began when the passenger was undergoing a bag search by an official at 1 p.m. 1:30 p.m., at the airport’s main checkpoint, after an X-ray scan revealed what was described as a “prohibited object.”
“He advised the passenger not to touch the property and when he opened the compartment with the prohibited object, the passenger threw himself into the bag and grabbed a firearm, after which it was fired. The passenger then fled the area, “according to the declaration.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported social media users rushed from the airport in the chaos after hearing the gun go off. A video posted on Twitter showed people running out of the terminal, some looking anxiously back or looking in apparent confusion.
After the Atlanta police had made it very clear, normal operations were resumed at the airport before 1 p.m. 15.30, the TSA said all passengers should be screened again.
The TSA said the incident underscores the importance for all passengers of checking personal belongings for dangerous items before heading to the airport. Passengers caught with firearms at airport checkpoints risk a civilian sentence. The TSA says firearms may be allowed in checked baggage when unloaded and packed in a locked suitcase with hard sides.
Last month, federal officials reported an increase in firearm seizures at Atlanta airport Part of a record year for the number of weapons detected during airport security checks.
The TsA said it seized 391 firearms at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in the first nine months of 2021. That is an increase from 220 last year, when the number of passengers dropped significantly due to the pandemic. But it’s also a big leap from 2019, when 323 firearms were seized in Atlanta.
Across the nation, the TSA said, it had stopped 4,495 air passengers from carrying firearms on their flights by October 3 this year, surpassing the previous record of 4,432 firearms captured at checkpoints throughout 2019.
The agency announced the figures for 2021 in a press release, noting that the record came despite a continued decline in passenger numbers due to the pandemic. The release did not provide an explanation or theory about the increase in arms seizures.
Hartsfield-Jackson is one of the busiest airports in the country, though other US airports compete with its passenger numbers. Dallas Forth Worth International Airport was number two on the TSA’s list of 232 firearms seized on October 3rd.
Suggest a correction
Disclaimers for mcutimes.com
All the information on this website - https://mcutimes.com - is published in good faith and for general information purpose only. mcutimes.com does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information you find on this website (mcutimes.com), is strictly at your own risk. mcutimes.com will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with the use of our website.