A convicted criminal terrified passengers and employees of a US airport when he fired an illegal weapon at a security checkpoint.
People fled, screaming in panic when they heard the gunshot, some of them ran onto the tarmac, and three people were lightly injured in the chaos and confusion at Atlanta Airport, Georgia.
Kenny Wells, 42, who authorities said was a convicted felon, fled the scene with a gun and was on the run this morning (Sunday November 21).
An arrest warrant was issued against him for carrying a hidden gun at a commercial airport, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, firing a firearm and reckless behavior, said airport police commander Major Reginald Moorman.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said the gun owner was advised not to touch the bag when an officer ransacked it at the airport’s main security checkpoint.
But when the officer opened the compartment with the weapon, “the passenger stormed into his pocket and grabbed a firearm, whereupon it released”.
Authorities said it was not an incident involving active riflemen and described the discharge as accidental.
“We are actively tracking this person as we speak,” said Police Commander Moorman.
The incident caused a stir on social media as alarmed travelers posted videos on Twitter and other websites depicting and describing the mayhem and confusion at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The airport, which was the busiest in the world in 2021 according to aviation analysts Official Airline Guide, was especially busy with people leaving for Thanksgiving.
The flights were stopped at the height of the horror but quickly restored.
Authorities said three people suffered minor injuries, including one person who fell in the airport atrium area away from the checkpoint and two people who complained of shortness of breath.
A TSA official said no one was shot.
“We were fortunate that no one was seriously injured when the gun went off,” said Robert Spinden, TSA’s Georgia director of federal security.
Last month, the TSA reported that 4,650 firearms – most of them loaded – were discovered at security checkpoints at U.S. airports in the first 10 months of 2021. This exceeded the annual record of 4,432 that was set in 2019.
According to the TSA, 450 firearms were discovered at the Atlanta Airport checkpoints alone in 2021.
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