Chaos occurred over the weekend at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL). On November 20, 2021, a passenger accidentally fired a weapon in the airport’s security area causing widespread panic among travelers.
The incident occurred at about 13:30 PM local time when a prohibited item was detected in a passenger’s personal belongings during x-ray screening at the airport’s security checkpoint.
This prompted a secondary search of the belongings.
During the secondary search, the passenger “lunged into his property, grabbing a firearm that was located inside, which ultimately discharged.The passenger then fled the security checkpoint through an adjacent exit lane with his firearm”, said Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Georgia federal security director, Robert Spinden, during a news conference which was uploaded on social media by the Atlanta Police department.
11-20-2021: Atlanta Airport Accidental Discharge Incident Press Conference https://t.co/BIGTPdBy5c— Atlanta Police Department (@Atlanta_Police) November 21, 2021
Further details about the incident emerged in a statement released by TSA: after the initial screening where the weapon was first detected by x-ray, a Transport Security officer advised the passenger not to touch the property. However, as the officer opened the compartment containing the prohibited item, the passenger lunged into the bag and grabbed a firearm, at which point it discharged. The passenger then fled the area, running out of the airport exit.
Authorities revealed that no one was shot during the incident, but three people received injuries because of the panic that ensued.
Panic at the Atlanta airport just after 1:30 PM. pic.twitter.com/J6OXqk2iJB— ATLSCOOP (@ATL_SCOOP) November 20, 2021
Chaos at the Atlanta airport after an accidental gun discharge. pic.twitter.com/GN9vfY9Rzy— ATLSCOOP (@ATL_SCOOP) November 20, 2021
At approximately 14:57 PM local time, ATL airport was declared all-clear and normal operations resumed.
Operations at #ATLAirport are quickly returning to normal. The airport was declared all-clear at 2:57 pm. Passengers are being screened and flights are underway. The investigation into the incident is being conducted by law enforcement officials.— Atlanta Airport (@ATLairport) November 20, 2021
The Atlanta Police department has identified the passenger whose weapon was discharged as 42-year old Kenny Wells.
“We have taken out warrants for carrying concealed a weapon at a commercial airport, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, discharging a firearm and reckless conduct. We are actively pursuing this individual,” Atlanta Police Department Airport Precinct Commander Reginald L. Moorman said at the press conference.
TSA officers have detected more than 450 firearms at ATL checkpoints alone in 2021. This incident underscores the importance of checking personal belongings for dangerous items before leaving for the airport. In October 2021, the TSA reported that the first nine months of 2021 had seen a record number of passengers bringing firearms to the airport, setting a 20-year high.
Passengers in the USA can legally travel with firearms and ammunition, as long as they follow the proper guidelines and requirements by the TSA.