UPDATE 4:55 p.m. EDT: Police said a machete-wielding suspect who attacked Transportation Security Administrations employees at Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans died Saturday. The suspect was shot three times by a Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office deputy.
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Police found six Molotov cocktails in the possession of a 63-year-old mentally ill man who attacked Transportation Security Administration employees at New Orleans' Louis Armstrong International Airport on Friday night, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. Richard White, who used a 14-inch machete during the attack, also was carrying a bag containing smoke bombs and a barbeque lighter, and had tanks of acetylene, oxygen and freon in his car, the report said.
A Molotov cocktail is a crude incendiary device made by filling a bottle with gasoline or other flammable liquid. One lights a cloth hanging from the bottle and throws it, causing an explosion of flames. Lt. Heather Slyve of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office shot White three times, incapacitating him, after he rushed a TSA security point around 8 p.m. CDT at the airport brandishing the machete and a can of wasp-killing spray, which he used to incapacitate one of the TSA officers.
The shooting occurred after the suspect attacked another TSA agent, who defended himself with a piece of luggage. The suspect chased the agent, but was stopped by Slyve's shots. Bullets hit White in the chest, face and thigh, the Associated Press reported. White was rushed to a hospital for surgery shortly afterward and was upgraded to "serious" condition Saturday, sheriff's Col. John Fortunato said.
Authorities praised the response by officers who were on the scene. One TSA officer who was wounded by one of the shots Slyve fired nevertheless said Slyve "saved my life."
"He [White] was within inches of whacking me. ... She [Slyve] saved a lot of people's lives. This man swung very hard with the machete," the TSA officer said.
The motive for the attack was unclear as of Saturday. White, a resident of Kenner, Louisiana, a suburb just two miles from the airport, had been arrested in the past for "minor arrests," Fortunato said Saturday. It wasn't clear if White was attempting to board a plane. He did not work as a taxi driver, as was initially reported. Family members confirmed White suffered from mental illness although the severity of the illness was not clear. Police said they hope to speak to White after he regains consciousness, but Sheriff Newell Normand admitted officials "don't know if that's going to happen."
The attack threw the terminal into chaos. Witnesses described running for cover after seeing the suspect with the machete and after hearing Slyve's weapon go off.
"I heard the gunshots," said Logan Tucker, 26, according to USA Today. "It was pandemonium after that. I took cover. I didn't want to become part of the story."