In the aftermath of a violent incident at New Orleans’ major airport, there’s anxiety and puzzlement, but also relief. This is a terrible tragedy that, truth be told, could have been a lot worse.
Richard White, the apparently troubled 63-year-old assailant, attacked security agents at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Friday night with a machete and wasp spray.
According to authorities, White attacked two federal Transportation Security Administration agents with wasp spray and chased another officer, Carol Richel, with the machete after agents attempted to prevent him from passing through a pre-clearance line for boarding. White crossed paths with Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Lt. Heather Slyve, who fired three shots at White, striking his chest, face and thigh.
White died Saturday as a result of his injuries.
Officials now believe that one of the shots went through White, striking Richel in a bicep. Richel was well enough to attend a news conference after the incident, thanking Slyve for her quick thinking in stopping White. “She is my hero. Thank God she was there,” Richel said of Slyve.
We’re glad that Richel wasn’t injured more seriously and that no visitors to the airport appear to have been physically harmed during the attack. We commend the TSA agents and Slyve for their actions in preventing White from doing more harm.
Incidents like this naturally raise questions about terrorism. So far, the encouraging news is that White appears to have acted alone and not as part of some large terrorist group. This seems to be the act of a man who had serious mental problems, which is a tragedy in itself.
“This was an unexpected attack by a clearly disturbed and troubled individual,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. “Obviously, we’re going to learn a lot from this issue.”
We hope so.
The public should expect a full review of the incident to determine what, if anything, might have been done to handle such an attack.
Within hours of the incident, leaders from both New Orleans and Jefferson Parish, where the airport is located, held a news conference to assure that public that safety is a top priority at the airport. Their quick response demonstrates a wise recognition that the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is the front door to Louisiana for thousands of visitors each year. It’s a point of entry for tourists and business executives whose travels take them not only to the Crescent City, but other parts of the state.
Louisiana has a vital interest in assuring both visitors and residents that the state’s most prominent airport will be as safe as possible. Sadly, though, violent events like the one apparently perpetrated by White can never be fully prevented.