Accidental Weapon Discharge Sparks Panic at Atlanta Airport, Not Active Shooter: Officials
The accidental discharge of a passenger's weapon at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport sparked widespread panic Saturday afternoon.
According to a statement from the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), the incident occurred at approximately 1:30 p.m. local time during a bag search at the airport's main checkpoint after a "prohibited item" was identified by the X-Ray.
A property search TSO asked the passenger not to touch the property, but 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 immediately fled the scene and ran out of an airport exit.
"This incident underscores the importance of checking personal belongings for dangerous items before leaving for the airport," the statement said, noting that TSA officers have detected more than 450 firearms at Atlanta Airport checkpoints in this year alone.
One witness captured the aftermath of the firearm discharge on video, which shows passengers on the ground scrambling for safety and various items strewn across the floor. TSA said three individuals sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
Atlanta Airport confirmed the incident was not an active shooter event, though a temporary ground stop was initiated while the Atlanta Police Department investigated the incident, per the TSA statement.
"There is not an active shooter," the airport tweeted. "There was an accidental discharge at the Airport. There is no danger to passengers or employees." Two hours later, the airport announced officials had "given an all-clear" for normal operations to resume.
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Guns are permitted in checked baggage "when they are unloaded and packed in a locked, hard-sided case," per TSA.
"Firearms, particularly loaded firearms, introduce an unnecessary risk at checkpoints, have no place in the passenger cabin of an airplane, and represent a very costly mistake for the passengers who attempt to board a flight with them," the statement added.
Law enforcement is currently investigating the incident.