A firearm was discharged at a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport this weekend.
On November 20, a TSA officer at the airport’s main checkpoint began a bag search due to a prohibited item identified by the X-Ray. The officer advised the passenger not to touch the property, and as he 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, with his firearm, running out of the airport exit.
Early reports indicate three people sustained non-life-threatening injuries. TSA states that this was not an active shooter event and Atlanta Police tweeted that it was an accidental discharge. Local airport and TSA leadership made the decision to initiate a ground stop, which slows or temporarily halts air traffic without closing the airport, while Atlanta Police Department investigated the incident further. Atlanta Police Department later gave an all-clear for TSA to begin rescreening passengers.
In a press conference on Saturday night, Atlanta Police identified the suspect as Kenny Wells, 42, a convicted felon. Wells was not caught at the airport and police said at the press conference that there are warrants for his arrest and that he was being actively pursued. There have been no further updates at the time of writing.
TSA officers have detected more than 450 firearms at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta checkpoints in 2021. This incident – and the total number of detections so far this year – underscores the importance of checking personal belongings for dangerous items before leaving for the airport. Firearms, particularly loaded firearms, introduce an unnecessary risk at checkpoints, have no place in the passenger cabin of an airplane – especially given a rise this year in unruly passenger incidents, and represent a very costly mistake for the passengers who attempt to board a flight with them.