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Police Find Six Molotov Cocktails in Bag of Machete-Wielding Man at New Orleans Airport

Authorities aren’t sure why a 62-year-old swung a machete and doused TSA agents and travelers with insecticide before he was shot and wounded by a sheriff's deputy.

by Liz Fields
Mar 21 2015, 3:25pm

Photo by Jonathan Bachman/AP

Police say they found six Molotov cocktails in a bag belonging to the man who allegedly swung a machete and doused TSA agents and travelers with wasp spray at the New Orleans airport Friday night before he was shot by a sheriff's deputy. 

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand told reporters at a press conference Saturday that authorities reportedly also found a barbecue lighter, and smoke bombs in a bag belonging to the suspect, identified as 62-year-old Richard White. According to reports citing a statement from the sheriff, White died from his wounds Saturday evening at a New Orleans hospital.

"There is a mental illness component to this, we don't yet know how severe," Norman added. "We don't know if there were any recent incidences (portending the violence). In fact, quite to the contrary."

White allegedly entered a secured area at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport shortly before 8pm Friday night and began spraying civilians and security personnel with a can of insecticide, Normand told reporters at an earlier conference Friday night.

The suspect reportedly drew a large machete from his waistband and swung it at onlookers and TSA agents, one of whom blocked the knife with a piece of luggage as White ran through a metal detector.

Lt. Heather Slyve of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office approached White with her service weapon drawn as he was chasing a female TSA agent, Normand said. White continued to swing the knife as Slyve advanced, and the officer shot him three times, striking and injuring his face, chest, and thigh, police said.

The female TSA agent also suffered a non-life-threatening bullet wound in the arm during the incident, according to authorities.

White was taken to a local hospital and underwent surgery for his injuries Friday night, police said. A Sheriff's Office spokesman, Col. John N. Fortunato, told VICE News White's condition was still "serious" as of 8am Saturday morning.

The Sheriff said Saturday White had left a bag in the concourse that was emitting "a gas smell." A bomb squad that was called to the scene found the Molotov cocktails in the bag, and also discovered smoke bombs, tanks of the chemicals acetylene, a highly flammable hydrocarbon gas, Oxygen, and Freon, an aerosol propellant, in White's vehicle.

Fortunato told VICE News an investigation is ongoing and "no motive has been established as of yet."

A police statement said that White had a few minor arrests on his record prior to the incident. It appears he was not trying to board a plane and police are still determining what he was doing at the airport, authorities said.

Authorities said Saturday that White was not a taxi driver, as had recently been reported.

Garret Laborde, 31, a traveler trying to fly to Houston who witnessed the scene, told the Associated Press there was "instant chaos" Friday night.

"Everyone was ducking for cover," he said. "It's New Orleans. I knew they (the gunshots) were coming from the security checkpoint area. I immediately ducked down... Then we waited."

The Sheriff praised the actions of the deputy who shot White and the TSA agents at the scene last night.

"All the folks at the checkpoint did everything humanly possible to protect the public," Normand said Saturday. "They stood their ground as much as they could, and caused some confusion where he turned back down the security lane. Had he made it down the concourse, who knows?"