On Friday night, Richard White terrorized passengers at New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport when he charged through security, armed with wasp spray and a machete that witnesses said he swung over his head.
But just days earlier, White, 63, had appeared calm and collected while shopping at a local Wal-Mart, according to a former neighbor who affectionately referred to him as “Richy Rich.”
“I was totally shocked to hear that was Richard,” said Donna Jackson, a friend who lives in the 1600 block of Taylor Street in Kenner, across the street from White’s last officially known address.
As Jackson stood on the street in front of her home in her pajamas Saturday morning, talking to a letter carrier about her friend, she struggled to understand how someone she thought she had known so well could commit such a violent act.
“I couldn’t understand. I just saw him, and this week he’s doing something like this?” Jackson, 55, said, adding that the two had a long conversation as recently as last week. “He said, ‘How you doing, Donna?’ We must have talked for 20, 30 minutes. There wasn’t nothing wrong. That’s why I was very surprised that he did what he did last night.”
Jackson described White as a “kind” man and a deeply religious Jehovah’s Witness who was married with a stepson. The Army veteran had only recently gotten a chauffeur’s license. Before that, he was living off Social Security.
White would often come over to her house and sit for hours talking to members of her family, she said. He would also talk to Jackson about her diabetes, trying to convince her to get off her medications and turn instead to herbal remedies.
“He was kind. He would help you,” Jackson said, adding, “My prayers go out to his wife and his family. They have my deepest condolences.”
Authorities reported that White’s address was on Taylor Street, just a couple of miles from the airport where he was shot multiple times after charging past Transportation Security Administration agents in Concourse B just before 8 p.m. Friday.
But on Saturday, Jackson said White hadn’t lived on her street for at least a year. His landlord sold the house to a new owner, and he moved a couple of blocks away to a new address in Kenner, she said.
On Friday night, White lay in surgery, fighting for his life after the airport attack. He died Saturday afternoon, leaving friends, travelers and officials trying to figure out a motive for his bizarre final actions.
Jackson said that for the life of her, she couldn’t come up with a reason why her friend would commit such an attack.
“I have to wonder: Was this a death wish?” she mused. “You never know what’s going through a person’s head, I guess.”