Wells fled the airport with the firearm in hand. Airport visitors on Saturday posted videos on social media showing chaos at the airport facilities as news spread about the incident.
The firearms release comes as Hartsfield-Jackson led all U.S. airports in the number of firearms found at security checks in the first nine months of the year. TSA officials have issued warnings about the increased number of unauthorized weapons.
“The number of firearms that our TSA officers stop at airport checkpoints is alarming,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement last month.
Atlanta police issued arrest warrants for Wells’ arrest, accused of carrying a concealed weapon at a commercial airport, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, handing over a firearm and reckless conduct, May announced. Reginald Moorman of the Atlanta Police Department Airport District at a press conference Saturday night in Hartsfield-Jackson.
The incident also shows how the slightest drop in airport security can have ripple effects in the form of flight delays and cancellations.
About 26% of flights from Hartsfield-Jackson on Saturday were delayed, and 23% of flights arriving at Atlanta airport were delayed, according to flight attendant FlightAware. A total of 12 flights in Atlanta were canceled.
These delays come ahead of the busiest travel periods of the year. Some U.S. airlines predict that this year’s Thanksgiving season may be the busiest time for air travel since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The TSA predicted that about 2 million people a day would fly between November 19 and November 28. Combined air and road traffic this Thanksgiving season is expected to be about 13% higher than last year, according to AAA.
Delta will offer travel exemption to travelers affected by Saturday’s delays.
The firearms drop from Atlanta Airport prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to impose a land stop, stopping flights scheduled to depart for Atlanta on Saturday between 6 p.m. 13.38 and 14.14
Delta requested a ground stop starting at. 17:28, according to the FAA. A brief land stop was followed by a ground delay as Delta was working on managing the gateway, with planes delayed due to the incident.
Passengers evacuated Concourse T after gunfire. These passengers were screened again for safety when they returned to the terminal.
Delta, the dominant airline in Atlanta, said nearly all of its customers picked up bags on Saturday and that eight customers’ bags remained uncollected at 6 p.m.
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